The Mississippi Baptist Foundation  |  est. 1943  |  Psalm 24:1
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      At a recent funeral, several speakers presented memories and reflections regarding their relationship with the deceased. The first speaker had known the individual about which he spoke since high school. The second speaker was a niece who shared some meaningful experiences from the perspective of a younger relative. The third speaker was a semi-retired preacher who a few folks might know…his initials are J.F. and his name rhymes with “Tim Neutral.”     
      This third speaker had not known the deceased for as long or in the same manner as the previous two individuals. Nonetheless, he did a masterful job weaving the topic of “light” as presented in Scripture within both the context of Christmas and the context of a life well-lived. Through the reading of Matthew 4:16, the group assembled for the memorial service was reminded that Jesus’ birth and earthly ministry fulfilled Old Testament prophecy as Matthew referenced Isaiah, the great gospel prophet, who proclaimed “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (9:2).
      As this third speaker gathered momentum and began comparing the life of the deceased with characteristics and qualities of light, I decided to take a few notes. Although I was at a memorial service, I rationalized that knowing the family of the deceased for about 40 years, coupled with the fact that I was sitting in the back of the sanctuary, would probably grant me a pass on this particular occasion. So, I jotted down how light, like the life lived by the deceased, dispels darkness. Then I recorded a few thoughts about how light, like the deceased did throughout life, provides direction. I was looking toward the next point of comparison but none was forthcoming. The speaker made a few additional and meaningful comments before closing out his portion of the service.     
      Having known this retired-but-not-really-retired preacher for many years and realizing that he probably had another point or two, I quizzed him after the memorial service. He admitted that he could have continued the line of thought presented in the points that he did make. Well, as preachers are prone to do, I decided to employ the speaker’s framework and “improve” upon his outline just a wee bit. To this end, I submit that…


      Light Collides with Darkness. Light dispels darkness with an abrupt and powerful entry. Traveling at 186,000 miles per second, light collides with darkness and chases the darkness away. As recorded in Genesis 1, God did not eliminate darkness. Rather, he added light to displace the darkness.     
      During a dark time in world history, God used a young couple and a manger in Bethlehem to add light. The entrance of the Light of the world came in the form of a baby whose birth was announced powerfully and abruptly by an angel to some shepherds on a nearby hillside who were terrified as the “glory of the Lord shone all around them” (Luke 2:9). This baby, “the true light that gives light to every man” who dwelt among us as the “light of men,” collided with the darkness of our world. Though the darkness of our world does not comprehend the light, powerful collisions with darkness continue as Jesus, the Light of the world “shines in the darkness”today (John 1:9, 4, 5).

      Light Provides Direction. The light of a star provided direction for the magi as they made their way to Bethlehem to the place where Jesus was (Matthew 1:9). The One who declared “I am the light of the world”also declared “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Nearing the conclusion of his earthly ministry, Jesus not only informed his disciples that he would soon be departing but also that they would be with him for “You know the way to the place where I am going” (John 14:4). When quizzed by Thomas concerning how they could know the way when they did not know Jesus’ destination, Jesus replied “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  (John 14:6). Jesus, the Light of the World…the Light that collides with darkness, is the Light that provides direction.


      Light Divides Distance. While this point was not presented at the memorial service and may not have been an additional point that the speaker might have made, light has a unique way of dividing the distance. While admittedly this concept could be considered part-and-parcel of the direction-providing quality of light, the presence of light lessens and makes negotiable a distance previously considered insurmountable while surrounded by darkness. Jesus, the true light…the light of the world, divides the great distance between mankind and the Father that results from sin.

      Jesus is the “way and the truth and the life” who enables us to meet with God. He is the “Savior…born to you…Christ the Lord.” The apostle Paul explained this truth in his Ephesian letter with “…remember that at that time you were… without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” (such that) “…you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household…” (Ephesians 2:12-13, 19).     
      With the song “Heaven Came Down,” John W. Peterson united words and music to express the manner in which we are united with God through the Light of the world who not only collides with and dispels the darkness of our sin, but who also directs us to the Father while conquering the distance that separates us…those who are lost without hope…from Him. Peterson wrote:


O what a wonderful, wonderful day – Day I will never forget;

After I’d wandered in darkness away, Jesus my Savior I met.

O what a tender, compassionate friend – He met the need of my heart;

Shadows dispelling, with joy I am telling, He made all the darkness depart!


Heaven came down and glory filled my soul.

When at the cross the Savior made me whole;

My sins were washed away – And my night was turned to day;

Heaven came down and glory filled my soul!


      In just a few days, all of the beautiful and magnificent displays of light that adorn many homes, neighborhoods, parks, businesses, and the downtown city square will be switched off and stored for another year.  Jesus Christ, the Light of the world whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, continues to collide with darkness, to provide light to guide our way to the Father, and divide the distance that separates us from Him.


Lord, the light of Your love is shining, in the midst of the darkness shining; Jesus, Light of the world, shine upon us, Set us free by the truth You now bring us; Shine on me, Shine on me…

Shine, Jesus, shine, fill this land with the Father’s glory; Blaze, Spirit, blaze, set our hearts on fire. Amen.