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Spread the Light of Christ(mas)

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In one week's time we will begin the season of Advent. Next Sunday, December 3rd marks the time when historically many churches would begin to focus their attention on the first coming, or advent, of Christ. This is a time for preparing our hearts for Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning. It is also a time to begin the celebration early, and to put an extra focus on the good news of Jesus Christ.

Now, not every Christian has come along for the ride in celebrating Christmas with this kind of focus and gusto. Some object to Christmas due to a strict, dare I say wooden, interpretation of the regulative principle. I wrote about this before, in an article called Lord Of Our Years, so I won't repeat myself here. Suffice it to say I believe we have Scriptural precedent and good reason to mark our time by the great events of Redemption. Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension Day, and Pentecost are the five gospel feast days, long held dear by Christian's around the world. We would do well to redeem our time in celebrating them.

But one thing that often happens, is that these holidays sneak up on us. So even if we had the best intentions, we miss making the most of the opportunity. And that is why I would like to encourage you right now to think about how you are going to redeem the time this Christmas. Don't let the commercialism and the mere social aspects of the holiday sweep in and steal your gospel focus. Instead, be proactive in how you will treasure Christ this Christmas – personally, as families, in the church, and in your outreach.

It is to that last category that I would especially like to speak to. I want to encourage you to make the most of Christmas in your outreach to the lost. To share this gospel of hope more than you ever have this Christmas. The image I often go to every Christmas is that of light in the darkness. It is a biblical image – and one often used to describe the coming of Christ. Perhaps the most repeated words on this theme are the ones from Isaiah:

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone. (Isaiah 9:2)

Or from the gospel of John:

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5)

Every Christmas we have this message to share with the world. The message is that this world is dark. This world is sin-sick and has no light. This world is under the curse and without hope and without God. But, that's just the context. The message at it's heart is good news. The glorious news that into that land of deep darkness light has come. The Word, the eternal Son of God came down from heaven. The Divine took on human flesh, became man, in order to save the world. Mystery of mysteries! He is the light. And the greatness of what He did Two Thousand and Twenty-Three years ago continues to shine in this dark world. The light of hope, the light of truth, the light of life, it shines.

Jesus himself is the light of the world. "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12). But He also tells His church that they are that light, and that they are responsible to shine that light far and wide.

14 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16).

Paul also speaks of Christian's as lights shining in this dark world. "you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life." (Philippians 2:15-16)

This is clear. You should at all times, but I would encourage you now at Christmastime especially, shine the light of Christ. Make His gospel known. And adorn that gospel with good works. Do not be shy about your Christian faith. No, quite the opposite, put it on a hill. Put it on a stand for everyone to see. Wear your gospel hope on your sleeve. Let your light shine among men.

Now what are some ways you could go about doing this? Well, there are many. And this is perhaps the fun of it. You can create your own Christmas traditions and habits as a family. But here are some ideas to shine the light of Christ this Christmas:

1. Christmas Lights

Yes, you read that correctly. It's a pretty literal interpretation of "shining the light". And just because the pagans are doing it too, doesn't mean it isn't a wonderful and powerful image for the real meaning of Christmas. It is. Christmas lights remind us what time of year it is. It is time to celebrate the Incarnation – the great coming of the light into this dark world. Martin Luther had the idea five hundred years ago to put candles on his Christmas tree as a symbol for Christ as the light of the world. And I dare say it was a good idea (minus the obvious fire-hazard part. LED's are an improvement there). But perhaps you would consider ramping up your own Christmas light game this year. Light up your house. Light up your office. And maybe add something specifically Christ-centred. A nativity, a manger, a Bible verse, a cross, something to make the connection to Christ explicit. Perhaps it will be a conversation starter for you as well.

2. Giving Gifts

We rightly lament the over-commericialization of Christmas. But let's keep things in perspective. Isn't it fitting to give gifts to one another in honour of the greatest gift of all? I think it is. Jesus came as a gift to be received: But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12). Perhaps this year make that clear in your giving. Give gifts in honour of the gift of Christ. Tell the recipients that this is the real reason for the gift. And give lots of gifts. This could be a way that you give out the gospel as well. Bring your neighbours gifts, and give them the gospel while you're at it. Maybe include a gospel tract or a gospel of John, or a hand-written note. Maybe stay and talk with them a while. I would encourage you to make the most of Christmas gifts this year. Turn them into an opportunity for spreading the light of Christ.

3. Sing the Gospel

One of the great blessings of our history in the west is all the Christmas Carols. They are almost universally loved, even by unbelievers. And so we have an opportunity with these songs, to sing them publicly, to sing them in our homes, to play them on our speakers, and to spread the gospel through song. One clear way we are doing this at Redeemer is with our Christmas Carols in the Park events. I would invite you all to come and join us for this outreach, as we sing out the good news over the crowds in downtown Kelowna. The gospel is good news of such a nature that it puts a song on our lips. When you've understood the glory of Christ and the glory of His grace, it is only fitting to sing: Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King!

4. Invite People to Church

Not everyone responds to an invitation to church on a regular Sunday. But Christmas Eve can for many people be an exception. I want to encourage you to take the opportunity and invite friends, family, neighbours, even strangers, to come to our church on Christmas Eve. It is a small effort, but God could use it powerfully in the lives of the lost. If they walk into a church for the first time in forever and hear the life-saving gospel of Jesus Christ, that is an unmitigated win. Let us not fail to invite many to come and hear the good news.

5. Pray & Worship

This is my last point. As we go into this Christmas season, perhaps the most important thing to get right before doing a whole lot of stuff, is to get our hearts in the right place before the Lord. Is your heart already full and ready to worship the Lord this Christmas? The answer for most of us is, probably no. And this is what is so helpful about the traditional Advent season. We take the time – three or four weeks – to read, reflect, pray and worship. In this we ready ourselves to worship the Lord with fullness of joy on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But also, by starting these reflections early, we are constantly ready to shine the light of Christ throughout the whole season.

So, what can you do to prepare your heart? I would encourage you to fill your life with the Word of God. Do some sort of an advent reading. This can be as simple as reading and studying the early parts in the gospel accounts in Matthew, Luke and John. But there are also devotionals that can be helpful aids to your study. I will include a link below to some devotionals you can use. Don't miss the opportunity to treasure Christ more deeply this Christmas. And from that treasuring of Christ, let us go into all the world spreading His glorious light.

The Dawn of Redeeming Grace by Sinclair Ferguson:

I ordered my copy from Amazon. I have not read this one yet, but it is my plan for this year. Sinclair Ferguson is a very trustworthy and edifying theologian.

https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/1784986380/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?smid=A3DWYIK6Y9EEQB&psc=1

Good News of Great Joy by John Piper.

I have done this one before. It is very good. And it is also FREE online.

https://www.desiringgod.org/books/good-news-of-great-joy

The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper

I have also done this one before. It is very good. And it is also FREE online.

https://www.desiringgod.org/books/the-dawning-of-indestructible-joy

The Advent of Glory by R.C. Sproul

Anything from R.C. Sproul is bound to be good. So I recommend this one as well. 

https://www.christianbook.com/the-advent-glory-devotions-for-christmas/r-c-sproul/9781784988913/pd/988913 

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Wednesday, 24 April 2024