Today is the last Sunday of the church year, celebrated each year as Christ the King Sunday. Next week we launch into the season of Advent, the beginning of the new church year, the season in which we remember that Jesus has come and is coming again. It is appropriate to end the year with an emphasis on the fact that Jesus Christ is King of kings, Lord of Lords, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
Our theme for this year at Central Presbyterian Church is “Living in the Light.” The light Christians are to live by is found through the study of Scripture and especially through the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. Today some of our youth have presented a tableau of the story of Jesus stilling the storm and have sung an anthem which uses the metaphor that Jesus is our Lighthouse. Thank you very much for that, by the way!
When I think about a lighthouse, here are some of the things that come to mind. A very tall, very solid structure, built to withstand wind and waves and storms for a very long time. A beacon at the top, carefully maintained so that the light is never out, bright enough to be seen for miles through all kinds of weather. If I was in a boat, it would be something I would look for in the dark to keep me safe from dangers and to lead me safely to port. If I was in a boat in a storm, it would be the light I would look for to serve as a fixed point to focus on even when blown off course.
That’s a pretty good description of the role Jesus plays in our lives when we depend on him and look for him. He is a solid, dependable fixture in a world filled mostly with shifting sands. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is a bright, unquenchable light. If we will look above the darkness of the world that we tend to get so embroiled in we will find him there to guide us around the rocks and dangers which could take us down and bring us safely home. If we find ourselves in a storm, he will never run for shelter. He will always be there for those who seek him and call on him. “Ask and it shall be given to you. Seek and ye shall find. Knock and the door shall be opened.”
Just because there is a lighthouse does not mean that we will notice it or make use of it. We can be so overwhelmed by the storm that we forget to look for it. We can be so sure of our own ability to find the right route that we never check it out. In Isaiah God says, “I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask, to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am,’ to a people that did not call on my name. I held out my hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices…” (65:1-2) It is even possible to come to prefer living in the darkness rather than the light. John writes, “This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light… All who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” (3:19-21)
After saving the life of the woman caught in adultery from those who wished to stone her to death, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (8:12) After giving the gift of sight to the man who had been born blind, Jesus said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”(9:5) Shortly before the events of Holy Week, Jesus said, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” (John 12:35-36) Jesus also said, “Whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.” (John 12:45-46)
What the light of Christ reveals is God. He shows us what God is like and teaches us how God wants us to live. And fortunately, when Jesus said the light would only be with us for a little longer, he meant in his bodily presence here on earth. For Christ is still alive. He reigns with God the Father. He is present in the world through the Holy Spirit, which guides, reveals, and opens the Scriptures to us. Jesus is the light of the world. He shines through the darkness still, and the darkness will never overcome the light of Christ.
This image of Jesus as our lighthouse who guides us through the darkest and rockiest nights, is one of many which help us understand what it means that Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is also our Good Shepherd, the bread of life, the way, the truth, and the life. He is the one who gives us abundant gifts and entrusts us with using them until he returns, he is the father who loves equally his rebellious, runaway child, and his resentful, stay at home child. He is the Word of God through whom all things were created, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. He is the obedient Son who humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. In submission he said to his Father, “Not my will, but Thine be done.” Therefore he has been highly exalted, and God has given him “the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11) “He has been Lord from the beginning; he will be Lord at the end; even now he is Lord.” (The Declaration of Faith)
This is all wonderful news and should give us great strength and encouragement for living our lives as Christians. But to stop at this point is to leave the story incomplete. Experiencing the saving light of Jesus Christ should not leave us unchanged, to continue wandering all our lives in darkness and bewilderment and occasionally looking to the light of Christ to get back on course. We should be changed by the light of Christ and we should come to reflect and bear the light of Christ in our lives.
Think about what we do in this room on Christmas Eve. We all hold candles, and at the end of the service when we celebrate the coming of Jesus, the light of the world, choir members each light their candles from the Christ Candle in the Advent wreath, then disperse through the congregation and begin lighting candles which are then used to light other candles until all our candles are burning. This is what it is supposed to be like. All of us become bearers of the light of Christ and go forth into the world to share the light. Jesus told his followers, “You are the light of the world. No one lights a candle then hides it under a basket. You put it on a high place so it can give light to all.” It is like the story I told last week of the Englishman many years ago watching a man go down the street lighting the street lamps one by one. He said, “That is what it means to be a Christian. You can see where he has been by the lights he leaves burning.”
Those who wish to live in the light will first learn to orient their lives by the lighthouse, Jesus Christ, who shows the way and who shines the light on how God wants us to live. Then we will seek to learn how to be bearers of the light who can help others find the way to the lighthouse by sharing the reflected glory of Jesus and learning his paths. So keep your lamps trimmed and burning, brothers and sisters, for the time is drawing nigh.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
David J. Bailey
November 23, 2014
Central Presbyterian Church