The wondrous mystery of Christmas is that the Light of Light descended into the pure darkness of a wretched world to “taste our sadness, He whose glories knew no end.” In love, Christ surrendered the endless day of paradise for the darkness of a virgin’s womb. He gladly exchanged His righteous robe of light for the sin-stained rags of those He came to save.
What are your family Christmas traditions? A McCarthy Christmas typically includes: selecting and decorating the perfect, preferably bowling ball-shaped, tree; wearing matching pajamas and itchy-ugly sweaters; hanging embroidered stockings from the mantle; setting out framed Christmas cards from years past; playing and singing carols 24/7; packing a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child; baking mountains of cookies; eating breakfast casserole with cinnamon rolls; and reading the Christmas stories of the Bible. But one tradition is especially sweet to us. We pile in the car, crank Bing Crosby (or Mariah Carey Christmas if my bride’s at the wheel) and drive around looking for the best Christmas lights in town.
While no two families have identical Christmas customs, many share a common theme: light. Why is light so central to the celebration of Christmas around the world? Light shining in the darkness is a simple but profound picture of the mystery of the incarnation of the eternally begotten Son of God which John expressed in the opening verses of his gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. 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 1:1-5).
Throughout the Scriptures, light represents God’s holiness, goodness, and impeccable purity. After meeting with God upon Mt. Sinai, Moses’ face shone with a heavenly luster so brightly, he had to shroud his face before his fellow Hebrews ( II Corinthians 3:12-18).
Jesus’ apostolic inner circle watched as “He was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became white as light” (Matthew 17:2).
Perhaps the Spirit illuminated that experience in John’s heart, inspiring the words, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). “
Our Lord Jesus Christ,” Paul declared, “is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Who Alone has immortality, Who dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:14 -16). And Paul would know! He experienced the business-end of that light firsthand when he was knocked from his horse on the road to Damascus and blinded by the radiance of Christ (Acts9:1-9).
Thus, the six-winged seraphim veiled their faces from the same searing glory emanating from the throne of the Holy One of Israel. Christians look forward with longing souls for that day when “night will be no more;” when they “will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:5).
The wondrous mystery of Christmas is that the Light of Light descended into the pure darkness of a wretched world to “taste our sadness, He whose glories knew no end.” In love, Christ surrendered the endless day of paradise for the darkness of a virgin’s womb. He gladly exchanged His righteous robe of light for the sin-stained rags of those He came to save. As the land was draped in the darkness between the 6th and 9th hours of that dreadful Friday long ago, so too, on the cross, the Son of God carried the sins of His people into the outer darkness of His Father’s wrath, that there would be no condemnation for those who cling to Him in repentance, love, and faith.
Maybe you weren’t quite as offended by Christmas’ early-October-arrival this year as you have been in the past. Perhaps you’ve thought to yourself, “I’ve never needed Christmas more than I do in 2020.” But you and I both know that Christmas cookies and cocoa can’t satisfy a hungry soul. Friends and family, carols and cards can’t quiet our restless spirits. No tree or trinket can fill the God-shaped hole in our hearts. Only Christ can.
May the twinkling lights of Christmas draw our souls in fresh adoration to the Light of the World made flesh, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. May each bulb remind us that He shone in the darkness and the darkness could not overcome Him! (John 1:3-5). May the glow invite us to remember that we, too, have been graciously called “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9) that we might “walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8): Even as we sing,
“O Come, thou Dayspring from on high, and cheer us by thy drawing nigh; disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”
Jim McCarthy is a Minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Pastor of First PCA in Hattiesburg, Miss.