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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lighting the Candle

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:14-16

The Roman soldiers, policing the crowd, surely must have turned on their heels at what they heard Jesus say. For all of their lives they had been told that Rome was the “light of the world”. But now to peasant farmers, fishermen, repentant prostitutes and tax-collectors, Jesus has just declared them to be the light of the world. Of all the amazing things that Jesus ever said, has He ever said anything so incredible, so unfathomable, as to call such people the light of the world!

Jesus had declared Himself to the light of the world, but now turning to is followers He tells them, “You are the light of the world”. What astonishing words to say about all who would follow Christ! He declares us to be what He is to the world.

Many Christians spend much of their life trying to discover life’s purpose, trying to figure out their reason for being. With these few words Jesus tells us our purpose. God created us, redeemed us, and now makes us new persons in Christ, so that we might be as Christ to the world, and let our lights shine.

I think the crowd must have snickered as Jesus teased about wasting precious oil to light a lamp, and then immediately putting it out. But no less foolish is it to be the light of the world, and not to let our light shine!

I remember from my seminary Greek classes that Jesus’ command, “Let your light shine”, is a permissive imperative. That means that we are to permit our light to shine. We must not do anything to cover it up, or put it out. It is good theology we are taught in the children’s song: “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine!”

If we are to let our lives shine, then that can only mean that the world desperately needs light. The world is in darkness and death without the Savior. So our faith needs to shine no matter where we are: at work, at school, in the neighborhood, at church and home. People need to see “good deeds” so that they will glorify our Father in heaven. The faith we profess needs to be visible, to be seen, and not hid. Each time we light an Advent candle or see a Christmas light glowing, we have the opportunity to dedicate ourselves to being God’s light in our world.

The English writer and artist, John Ruskin, watched a lamplighter light his lamps one evening and said, “Now that is what I mean by being a Christian. You ought to be able to see where he has been by the lights that he leaves burning”.

The birth of Christ in our souls is for a purpose beyond ourselves: it is because His manifestation in the world must be through us. Every Christian is, as it were, part of the dust-laden air which shall radiate the glowing epiphany of God, catching and reflecting His golden Light. Ye are the light of the world – but only because you are enkindled, made radiant by the one Light of the world.

– Evelyn Underhill




Our heavenly Father, we thank you for making us your beloved children through faith in Jesus Christ. Help us to walk so close to Jesus that others will see His light through us. We pray that through the words we say, and the way we act and react, that others will glorify you. Amen.

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