Purpose: The series is inspired by Coldplay’s song of the same name. We will use the cultural landmark of Christmas lights to look at what the Bible says about light, darkness, and the advent of Christ. The messages are uncompromising in their affirmation of the divinity of Christ and the call for people to abandon the kind of secret lives that darkness defines. This is one year you won’t have to drive to around town to see Christmas Lights.
Sermon #1 – Light Show
Bottom Line: Jesus is not Godly. He is God.
This sermon comes from the Transfiguration Story in Matthew 17:1-9. In that story, Jesus literally turns inside out – and the result is brilliant, blinding light. What had previously been hidden and invisible is now revealed and visible. Every secret gets this brilliant, bright exposure. And can you imagine if you secrets and your deepest insides got exposed? There’d be that time with that girl or that guy in college and you can’t even remember their name. There’d be that drunken episode or that thing you did on Ecstasy. There’d be the vengeance and the anger that you hide behind closed doors in a way that the ones you love the most suffer the greatest while the outside world thinks you’re a great guy or a great gal. There’d be the hatred you have for certain races or people groups. Or even the secret attraction for that guy or that girl on the job site. Most of us don’t EVER want to turn inside out because what’s buried and secret should remain that way, thank you very much. If it did get exposed, it wouldn’t be brilliant light but depressingly dark.
But most of us aren’t Jesus, are we? When his insides get exposed, what is revealed is this blinding perfection. The divine affirmation of that truth comes in the appearances of Moses and Elijah on the mountain with Jesus. Much has been made through the centuries of why they appear. Yet the reason is clear if you read Matthew 17:8 closely: “When [Peter, James, and John] looked up, they saw no one but Jesus.” Because here’s why these two GODLY figures from the past make an appearance: to disappear. Their purpose in the story is ultimately to exit stage left so that Jesus can remain center stage. Look at “No one except Jesus.” The two godly men leave this remarkable scene so that Peter, James, and John can gaze only on Jesus. Their role is to decrease so that Jesus can increase. That’s it. Jesus is not Godly. He is God.
Sermon #2 – The Night The Lights Went Out
Bottom Line: You love the darkness.
The sermon comes from John 3:16-21. We in the church land do a great disservice to John 3 when we stop with v. 16. In many respects, that’s when the good stuff begins!
Because in 3:19, John makes this affirmation: Light has come into the world . . . and if we were finishing that sentence, we’d say:
And the world loved it; or
And the world flew to it like a moth to an outdoor bulb; or
And we’ve never been the same.
But we’re not John. John instead concludes his verse with one of the most chilling phrases of them all: but people loved darkness instead.
The sermon delves into that revelation to expose all the ways in which we truly do love darkness – its secrecy, its isolation, its deception – more than the vulnerable authenticity of light.
The message closes with a note of hope: Your most painful exposure leads to your most fruitful faith.
Sermon #3 – Spotlight
Bottom Line: Instead of hogging the spotlight, shine it.
John the Baptist’s in utero leap in Luke 1 is one of the most remarkable stories in Scripture.
Why? Because he is the first baby ever to take the spotlight off himself in order to shine it on someone else.
Why the in utero leap by John? Here’s why: in Luke 1:43, Elizabeth recognizes embryonic Jesus as “my Lord.” Something supernatural is going on, someone supernatural is there, and baby John recognizes in the womb that he has been suprassed, outshone, outpace, outdone. He realizes the spotlight has shifted from him to Him! And that’s the best, most liberating thing about him! John’s life begins, in a sense, when he gets surpassed. When he is in the presence of embryonic royalty.
Joy arrives for baby John the Baptist when he becomes the first baby EVER to get out of the spotlight so he can shine it on someone else. He’s the first and only baby to realize he wasn’t put on earth to command attention; he was put here to give it. He had a prenatal education that some of us have yet to learn: the world does not revolve around us! Hogging the spotlight brings ever diminishing returns – and ever dimming light.
The same is true for all of us.
Sermon #4 – Night Light
Bottom line: Jesus was born into a world that did not want him but could not stop him.
Based on John 1:1-5, this Christmas Eve sermon addresses the invasive quality of Jesus’ incarnation. It opens up by highlighting certain life events at which we are not exactly welcome:
There’s been an occasion or two during my time in ministry in which people have said on a lark, “Come on over! We’re having a little get together & love to have you.” I’m sure they never thought I’d really take them up on it but it did and I show up and I can tell by the expression on the host’s face that they didn’t really expect the preacher to show up. And suddenly people are trying to hid their, um, beverages, the language changes, and the vibe alters. And I can just tell that though I may have been invited I wasn’t exactly wanted – that what was true of a skinny tennis player is now true of a skinny tennis player! It’s tough to realize you’re not wanted somewhere.
My goodness, there was me in late 1986 sort of wandering and in a funk and Jesus was so annoying that he sent me to a church I’d never attended, having hands laid on my by a youth pastor I’d never meet, and sent me straight into Ephesians 1 & 3, two chapters I’d overlooked because I thought the power of Ephesians was in chapter 2. I didn’t want him but couldn’t stop him. Neither can you.
You know why? Look at the tenses in John 1:5. The light shines. Present tense. Ongoing activity. Darkness could not overcome it. Darkness’ day is done. It’s moment of perverted glory is past and over. The light shines continually; it is active and alive and the victory was secure on the cross. We say this almost every year but every year it’s true: the cuteness of the manger is always connected to the gruesomeness of the cross, yet what looks like defeat and darkness is actually victory and light. There is no other way your sin problem could have been fixed. Those tenses in John 1:5 are not by accident. Darkness’ day is DONE and the light will be never-ending.
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