Who turned on the light?
Dec 17/10 for the Christmas Eve Service at Kirkland Lake Community Church (Salvation Army)
Wives, you are fast asleep in bed. You hear a noise. You are scared that there is an intruder. Your heart pounds. You stumble in the darkness. Suddenly, a light goes on. You blink several times and rub your eyes. You cry out, “Who turned on the light? As the haze over your vision clears you see your husband. Your husband says, “Um uh I turned on the light.”
Tonight, I am talking about a light more powerful than any light you would turn on in your home. In John, chapter one, verses one through fourteen we are shown the Light that came to us in the form of a baby born in that crude stable in Bethlehem. He was the Light that came into a world filled with darkness.
THAT LIGHT WAS CHRIST.
verses 1-2 What was the Word – Greek rendering the Logos
John was communicating with thoughts and language that could be understood in both Jewish and non-Jewish culture. They were familiar with Greek thought. In Greek thinking, logos was thought or reasoning. John wanted to communicate that the Logos was more than a god, which was the prevalent thinking with those who possessed a knowledge of Greek philosophy.
John wanted there to be no doubt that he was telling people about The Light, not a light, not some small g god, who possessed limited power. The apostle John was presenting those who would listen with the knowledge that the divine Logos, the Word made flesh was given the power from God The Father to bring light and hope into the darkness of people’s lives.
He is the second Person of the trinity, God the Son
Was with God in the beginning
Christ – the Word
verse 3 was active in creation
verse 4 “In him was life, and that life was the light of men”
That light refers to that which is good and pure.
Oh, my dear people and those visiting with us, God wants to become very real to you. He sent his one and only Son into the world. God allowed His only Son to die for the darkness in your lives.
There are many who cannot look at the darkness. It’s just too scary. Men often gunny sack what is bothering them. I do it. It’s a way of coping with that which is too painful to look at. It justs hurts too much.
Unfortunately, many men have been taught to hide their pain. They were taught that crying is a sign of a weak man. Suck it up and be a man! Don’t be a cry baby. In the modern language of today true men are required not to be wooses.
In the playground at recess how many guys here fell and scraped their knee? How many of you cried?
I fell at recess and scraped me knee as a little boy. It was so painful. The tear in my skin made me cry. My classmates gathered around me and laughed. Because I wore glasses and thought I was smart, they wanted to make me feel bad about myself. Professor four eyes, you’re such a cry baby. Mommy isn’t here to fix it and make it all better. Kevin is a cry baby. Kevin is a cry baby.
They said the words KEVIN IS A CRY BABY like it was an evil chant. Those words wounded me deeply. As God called upon me to write about that experience in preparing this sermon I cried, but I found myself fighting against what I had been taught. I must be strong. I even found myself disciplining me for being so weak. “Kevin, smarten up! The Enemy’s voice spoke to me and said, “Don’t share this experience. People will think you’re a wimp. Only girly men cry about these things! Be a man and show people what you’re made of. Do you want the congregation to think you’re a weakling.? That won’t get you anywhere in life. In fact, that’s why your life has been so difficult. You care too much about people and not enough about yourself. Start looking out for yourself, numero uno!”
As I prayed to God about the darkness that had been spoken into me, I began to feel more at peace. In my spirit I was told, “What Satan said about you being a weakling is a lie. I use what the world regards as being weak to confound the mighty. Those boys who were so cruel to you after you scraped your knee were teasing you because they were taught that a boy who cries is weak.”
Even when someone close to us dies, well-meaning people say deeply hurtful and thoughtless things to those who are grieving. Here is an experience from my time working in security at a luxury condo to illustrate what I mean.
It was three days before Christmas. I was working in security at the luxury condo where my mother and stepfather were superintendents.
My stepfather called me on the phone, “Kevin, your mom has stopped breathing. I’ve called 911.”
I felt like a terrible nightmare had begun. I wanted to delude myself into thinking that this was only a horrible and frightening dream that I would wake up from. But my mind couldn’t deny the truth: Mom had stopped breathing. “Oh God, please don’t let her die! Please, please God, let her live! Don’t take her away from me. There’s so much more I need to say to her.” My heart was beating so quickly that it felt like it would explode. “God, I know I haven’t been following You like I should have. Just let Mom live and I’ll change. I’ll follow You fully.”
I rushed into our apartment. Dad was kneeling over Mom and saying, “June! June! Wake up!” He shook her, but there was no response. He performed CPR. Nothing happened. Dad was crying. He kept pressing down on her chest and checking for any signs of life, even a faint breath. Nothing.
I’ll never forget the sight of my mom as the paramedics loaded her into the ambulance. She was on a stretcher with an oxygen mask on her pale face. I was too numb to even speak. I held on to hope that the paramedics and the doctors could save my mom’s life.
My dad told me, “Kevin, I need you to sit down. I have some difficult news for you. Your mom has had a massive heart attack. She is breathing now, but it took the paramedics a long time to get her heart started again. I need you to come with me to the hospital.”
At the hospital, the hours went by like days. Then, an ER doctor came and spoke with us. “Your wife has had a massive heart attack. We’ve had to put her on life support. A neurologist has been assigned to test for brain damage because it took so long to get your wife’s heart started again.
Several hours later the neurologist came. He said, “I have some bad news for you. In addition to the heart attack, Mrs. Miller has encephalitis. That’s an infection that has gone into her brain. When I did testing to measure for brain activity, it showed that 90% of her brain is dead. Even if she survives the coma she is in, she will never recover that lost brain function. We are still keeping her on life support, and doing what we can to treat the encephalitis. The chances of Mrs. Miller having a second heart attack are high. If she does, it would be more merciful if you signed a DNR order. That means that if her heart stops again you would direct us not to try to resuscitate her, and take her off life support.”
Dad turned to me after the neurologist left. We were both numb inside. He said, “Kevin., I need your help to make a difficult decision. I think it would be more loving to your mom if I signed the DNR order now. What do you think?” “Dad, I agree with you. Mom wouldn’t want to live this way.”
Two days later we were contacted by the hospital. Mom had had a second heart attack. We were given time to get to the hospital before they pulled life support.
After Dad and I arrived, Mom was taken off life support. I went into the ER room where she was, to say goodbye. The room was chilly as the Arctic Circle. When I went over to Mom, each step felt like a mile. She was stretched out on a cold steel table.
I held one of Mom’s hands, tears streaming down my face. I said, “I love you, Mom. I will miss you.” After I had said this, I could feel Mom’s hand lightly grasp one of my hands and then let go. She wanted me to know that she loved me too. Then, she was gone.
When I called to give Percy, the property manager, the tragic news he said, “Stop crying! You need to be strong now.! The words felt cold and callous. I needed to be listened to. I needed to cry. I didn’t care about how I would be viewed by him. When I needed light and life spoken into me all I he gave me was darkness. I felt like even God had abandoned me.
God used that experience to bring me back into life again. I’m not talking about physical life, but rather the spiritual life. Through my mom’s death, I was being called back into sharing God’s light with others.
My wife, Karen, says she’s so glad she’s not one of God’s sons. She says to me, “So much is expected of God’s son’s. A lot is required of God’s daughters, but much more is expected of his sons.”
What about you? Who is God to you? Do you even believe in God?
Have you ever had an experience like mine when my mother was dying? You cried out to God for help. You made a deal with Him. “If you will save my daughter from dying, I’ll believe in You then.”
Christ shines His light to you tonight and asks, “Do you understand the light that is Me? Do you accept My light to lift you out of the darkness?” What is God saying to your heart?
Our founder, General William Booth, said with power and deep conviction, “While there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight to the very end.” Booth understood both light and darkness in people’s lives. His and his wife Catherine’s mission was to challenge those living without hope and without God to accept Christ into their lives. The Booths and their followers were acquainted with darkness. They saw it in the unsanitary and unhealthy conditions in which families lived, particularly in East End London, England. The stench from the excrement in the streets filled the air. Children came home from working in coal mines with lungs blackened by soot. Poor families ate so badly that they died of malnutrition and diseases such as tuberculosis and pneumonia.
The darkness that poverty brings to people’s lives still exists today. The hopelessness it brings can be found in any Canadian town or city. In my work with The Salvation Army in Family and Community Services, I have seen what hopelessness looks like in a client’s eyes. There is no light left in those eyes. There is only darkness and despair. Their faces are aged well beyond their years. I remember seeing a person on the street who said he was in his thirties, but he looked more like sixty. Poverty kills hope. It murders dreams for a better life.
We are not immune to the darkness that poverty brings to people’s lives here in any Canadian town or city.. There are many on welfare here who don’t have enough money to feed their children. But poverty isn’t just about insufficient food or insufficient money. It is also about insufficient opportunity. Federal Public School was fund-raising recently to ensure that, among other things, all children are able to go on the field trips that are part of the curriculum. Insufficient money can mean unequal opportunity for education.
The problems of Booth’s day still exist today in Canada. There are those who are homeless. There are many who have drug and alcohol addictions. There are hard-working people without jobs. They keep sending out resumes and going to interviews without getting a job.
I know their journey well. In my early thirties, I sent out enough resumes to paper the walls of my room. I was told, “You’re over-qualified. You have too much experience for this job.” These are cold cruel words to a desperate man! I was willing to take any job but was flatly denied, time and time again. When I would introduce myself at Bible studies, I began to say, “My name is Kevin and I send out resumes.” I lost hope and began to despair. Most of my friends stopped calling. I began to fear the ringing of the phone since the only people who wanted to talk to me were bill collectors and I had nothing I could say to them! After being told, “No, we don’t want you” repeatedly, my sense of self-worth went on an extended holiday. There were many who judged me as being lazy and unmotivated, maybe even without faith! They said things like, “If you tried harder, sent out more resumes, changed your cover letter, changed your resume, prayed more, believed in God more, are you sure you’re saved? What did you do to tick God off? Even some of my Christian friends said I should learn to settle for a life that is second-class. I should recognize my limitations and accept poverty as a way of life.
I felt like I was being punished for taking so much schooling and being a deep thinker. The thoughts expressed by one of the people in charge of me summed up the depth of the bias against me,”You need more than a strong mind for this work. You need a strong back.” Instead of embracing all I had to offer, he chose to focus on what I didn’t have to offer.
The ignorance and bias of people of darkness can extinguish the light of hope from the strongest soul. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
Darkness knows no economic class. The rich need the light of Christ as much as the poor. I met a man in tavern ministry in Toronto who was very well-dressed. He looked well-fed. Even his shoes were polished. His watch looked expensive. But his soul lived in darkness. He described to us that he owned houses, had a huge bank account, and all the material possessions he wanted. Yet, even with all of this, he said that he was one of the poorest people on earth. He felt a deep emptiness. He knew that THINGS had become his god. He found it hard to understand that the poor and middle class people whom he saw could be so happy. He saw a light in them that he did not possess. No amount of money or things could buy what he saw in them and did not have. He expressed to us a deep longing to have Christ in his life. He told us how he had turned to drugs to dull the inner pain he was feeling. I remember that night when we took him to our church and he knelt at the altar to accept Christ into his heart. The tears streamed down his face. His body shook as he gave his life of inner pain over to God. He said he felt like a huge weight had been lifted from him. A smile of inner satisfaction spread over his face. The darkness had fled. The light of Christ shone from him. He was a new man.
What if you could leave this church more alive and vibrant than you have ever been before? What if you left here with a new spring in your step? You would be a new person! You might not even recognize the new you. You would defeat the images of hopelessness and despair with a new song, a new way of thinking. You would be victorious over those who said you are a bum, a waste of flesh, a good-for-nothing. You would send the people who have judged you wrongly a strong message that God thinks you are a somebody. You could tell them that God loves you. In time, you might even forgive them for there cold, callous comments. You might even point them to Christ, the true light who can save them from their darkness.
You may be saying, “I don’t need God. My life is perfectly fine without Him. I am a good, kind and considerate person. I have a wonderful job. I can support my family. I can provide my children with the latest Wii games. I live in a beautiful home. My family is well-provided for. I can even serve in church without believing in God.”
Maybe, you doubt that Jesus is who He says He is because for Jesus to be the Son of God is too fantastic. Jesus Christ is familiar with this kind of thinking. He devoted three years of public ministry to it.
The author and professor, C. S. Lewis, in his book, Mere Christianity, writes the following: “I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him [Jesus Christ]: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this Man was, and is, the son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that option open to us. He did not intend to.”
So what is Christ to you? A moral teacher? A prophet? A philosopher? A charlatan? A good man? A master teacher? Or is He the son of God? Christ, the true light, issues a choice to you. You either accept Him as He is or not.
CHRIST IS THE TRUE LIGHT. THE LIGHT WAS REJECTED AND NOT UNDERSTOOD.
Verse 11 “He came to that which was His own but His own did not receive Him.”
Even Christ’s disciples who knew Him more intimately than any one else, had real difficulty truly believing in Him. After Christ’s resurrection, Thomas needed to see the nail-pierced hands of Jesus before he would believe that Jesus was real. After Christ was crucified but before He was resurrected, the disciples were huddled together in the upper room, terrified that the Romans would come to kill them like Jesus. To save his own skin, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times on the night of his arrest. Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus to the chief priests and through them to the Romans, for thirty pieces of silver. .
Verse 12-13 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of a natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
I give these as examples to give hope to both the skeptic and those who are leaning towards believing in God. If Christ could love those who doubted Him and betrayed Him, then no one is left without the promise of truly knowing God. Regardless of what those who distort the Gospel say, anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord can be saved. God loved the whole world of people so much that He sent Christ to save everyone who believes. God’s love and light are available to anyone. It is a gift from Him. You don’t buy it. You don’t work for it. Your moral character doesn’t guarantee it.
For those of you who are Christians, the process of growing closer to Him requires an ever maturing faith. The road to knowing and following God is not an easy one. It requires consistent effort and being real about who we are. We have to dare to uncover our true identity and personality in God. That requires sharing our struggles with others, which means being vulnerable with them. That doesn’t mean that we share everything; some things about ourselves will remain between each of us and God because to reveal them could cause our destruction by those who would use that information against us. It is indeed sad that we have to be so careful about the information that we share about ourselves.
Perhaps, you know God, but you don’t understand why bad things happen to good people, why the innocent get hurt and killed. You wonder how can a good God would allow such things to happen and you doubt His goodness.
This is where real faith comes in. Logic says not to trust in a God who would allow children to die of starvation or live with abuse. Faith says, “I don’t understand God but I trust Him.”
Tonight, He leaves the choice with you. You can reach out to Him in faith. You can even continue to believe that He is a supreme Being. You can even put faith in God into boxes of your own convenience, accepting that which is comfortable for you and rejecting that which is not. You can continue to walk in darkness. You can embrace Christ the true light. But I want you to truly think about this question: Do you want a half empty life, or one that is full of the richness of truly knowing God and following Him? To not have God in your life is like having a sundae without the cherry and whipped cream or as my doctor in Toronto says about having a coffee substitute of chicory, why bother?
CHRIST IS THE LIGHT. HE WAS REJECTED AND NOT UNDERSTOOD.
CHRIST, IN HIS DIVINITY AND HUMANITY, IS OUR HOPE TO ESCAPE THE DARKNESS.
Verse 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
Here we are presented with Christ’s humanity. We are told that the Son of God and Son of Man lived among us. The baby in the manger was both human and divine.
When Jesus was born, he was homeless because there was no room for Joseph and Mary in the inn. He knew cold and lack of comfort on the day He was born.
After the wise men left, his family fled Israel in the middle of the night in terror for His life. King Herod was searching for Him to kill Him. So He knew the hardship and terror of a forced immigration.
He and his family lived in Egypt as fugitives, having to hide who they were and where they were from, until King Herod died. He knew insecurity about the future from an early age.
In Mat. 4:1-11, we see Jesus being tempted by the devil. He had experience in resisting temptation.
He suffered real physical pain on his journey to the cross. Often he was disappointed in his disciples. He wept at the death of his friend, Lazarus. So he knew what it was like to love someone and lose him.
He felt the pain of being deserted by his followers in the Garden of Gethsemane just before his arrest. In Mat 26:38, Jesus says to his followers, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.Stay here and keep watch with me.” His heart was breaking. He knew a horrifying death awaited him, and his friends wouldn’t stay awake even an hour to comfort Him.
Here is a man, the Son of Man and the Son of God, who understands and cares about what is happening in your life right now. He wants to come into your life and fill it with His light. It’s why He came to earth. It’s why He died on the cross. It’s why He rose again and ascended into Heaven. Will you let Him turn on the light in your life right now?
(leads into the appeal)
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