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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas lights on Plaza in Kansas City Missouri
Christmas lights at the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, MO

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"The Light Has Come!"

"In Him was life, and that life was the light of men" (John 1:4).
 "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19).

One of my favorite childhood Christmas memories is when my family would all pile in the car and drive around looking at Christmas lights. We lived in the Kansas City area and one place we would always go to was the Country Club Plaza, which had the most elaborate lights in the area. That was nearly fifty years ago and the Plaza still has marvelous Christmas lighting as illustrated by the photo today.

Bethlehem Christmas Tree on street lampWe have many beautiful Christmas light displays in our area as well. We have elaborate formal displays such as Hershey Sweet Lights in nearby Hershey PA. There are many homes, trees and shrubbery intricately decorated. Near Elizabethtown along Route 283, the four lane highway from Lancaster to Harrisburg, an entire dairy farm is lit up to look like a miniature Christmas village. Even a farm machinery dealer is all lit up! One of our favorite sites is seeing the star of Bethlehem lit up on top of silos – you can see them from a long distance off. And not too far away we have Bethlehem PA, known as the "Christmas City". Each street lamp post is decorated with a real lighted Christmas tree!

Here in our home we also have all types of lights though we've scaled back over the years. Besides the lighted Christmas tree we have a lighted wreath and star on our barn door, various lighted figurines, window candles and many scented Christmas candles. (I think Brooksyne may have an addiction to scented candles!) This year we added a large outdoor lighted angel my Uncle Don made and gave to us when we visited him and my Aunt Mary this last summer.

Light has long been a symbolic theme of the Christmas season based upon various Biblical texts. Today's text states that, "Light has come into the world."

A battle has long been raging and continues to do so even more furiously it seems. The Bible fundamentally teaches that:
1) The Almighty God is the Creator, Ruler, Redeemer and Judge over the entire universe.
2) He has revealed His will for man through His Word.
3) He has established non-arbitrary laws governing the conduct of His creation.

By contrast the secular humanist worldview that dominates in the west fundamentally asserts that:
1) God is merely a religious figment or whatever one wants to believe, if anything.
2) The Bible is, at best, just a collection of good stories (sometimes handy to make political points), but certainly not the rule of authority in our lives.
3) The rule of the Bible and its laws are merely arbitrary and subjective, requiring ongoing revision by the whims of man.

We see this ancient battle between these two opposing worldviews rising to a fevered pitch. Our world is in desperate need of true heaven-sent revival! The daily verse is so powerful and illuminating. "Light has come into the world." The Greek has the definite article "the" before light and I believe this is significant. In the Gospel and Epistles of John "the light" is Jesus Christ (see John 1:4-9; 8:12: 9:5; 12:46; 1 John 1:5). In Christ's incarnation indeed the light came into the world.

But the verse continues with this easily observable truth, "But men loved the darkness instead of the light." Again we have the definite article in the Greek prior to both light and darkness. This is a matter of fact statement that explains much about human nature and conditions in our fallen world. Because we are created with a free will many have chosen to walk in darkness.  Some are raised in a world of darkness and have never been exposed to the light.

But tragically, some are raised in the light of God's Word and yet choose to reject the light and wander into darkness. In doing so their vision adjusts to their darkened surroundings; attitudes are formed and patterns established within that setting. They grow into a comfortable relationship with the darkness.  It's home to them; they indeed "love the darkness" the Bible says.  Perhaps that's because expectations are lowered and that which is done in secret is more easily obscured. People in darkness do that which comes natural to the flesh, rather than that which comes from the Spirit of God.

We who seek to live in the glorious light of Jesus Christ marvel that anyone would choose to be a companion of darkness but they do "because their deeds were [are] evil." The text continues, "Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed" (John 3:20). If they come into the light they must deal with their evil deeds. They must confess and repent as have all true children of God.

This season as we celebrate the glorious birth of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, may we truly love the light rather than the darkness. We no longer keep our sin "under wrap" hidden in darkness, but we have exposed it by confessing it to Jesus. May we be among those who have believed the truth concerning Jesus Christ, "But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God" (John 3:21).

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Jesus, as I live by the truth of Your radiant light I am reminded again of the spiritual transformation that took place when my sins were exposed and You replaced my human nature with Your divine nature. Now my roots grow deep into the light of Your Gospel causing me to draw up nourishment from You so that I grow in faith, becoming strong and vigorous in this glorious new life. Thank You for canceling my sin debt when You were nailed to the cross on my behalf. I'm forever grateful that You came to seek me out and save me when I was lost in sin. I am so glad to be walking in the light of Your truth. Shine, Jesus, shine through me. Amen.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Click on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

We are sharing videos from our Christmas musical "Hope Has Hands" which was presented last weekend. Mike Martin, a friend in our church, spent a great deal of time getting these videos up on Youtube so we can share them with others.  Today I want to share two more songs and intend over the next several messages to share videos of songs from the rest of the musical.

New! "The Lord has Been Kind" is written from the perspective of Simeon and Anna. Brooksyne and Mike Book sing as a duet in this song. Video

New! "Beautiful Star Of Bethlehem" This is an older Christmas carol that I do not recall hearing prior to the musical but reminds us of the theme of light as taught in today's encouragement. I especially like the violin in the beginning! Our volunteer videographer also provides some appropriate images in our sanctuary as he observed as he made the recording.  Video

Our choir is a bit more ethnically homogenous than the choirs Brooksyne lead in our church in New England where we had a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds. For the most part our present choir is Pennsylvania Dutch but as I scan the faces we all have different stories, including a choir member who has an Amish background. I am of German descent and have been told I have some Pennsylvania Dutch through my Grandma so I don't add much to the choir's diversity, apart from being raised in the Midwest. I suppose the greatest diversity is from Ester (Guatamala) and Brooksyne who was raised in Oklahoma with some Cherokee background!

Today I referrred to several places with outstanding Christmas displays:
Kansas City's Country Club Plaza
Here's an interesting video about the Plaza Christmas lighting.
Hershey Sweet Lights
Christmas in Bethlehem, PA

Christmas lights on farm
Photo from Tumbledown Farm

Resources for Christmas Celebrations

It is our desire to share online resources that may be a blessing to families and churches during this Christmas season. We will continue to post these resources through Christmas Day. As we find additional material that we believe will be a blessing we will add it to this list as well.

Christmas Memories  Here's a collection of Christmas memories sent in by daily encouragement readers several years ago, along with an opportunity to share your own story. 

"In Remembrance of Me" pdf  This is a passion-filled Scripture reading for two adults. Brooksyne and I have used this reading with great receptivity during Christmas Eve services many years.  We suggest, if possible, a musical background as the message is read. It is also a great lead-in to a Communion service. It should be thoroughly practiced and read with great feeling.

"When Christ Was Born" pdf This is an adaptation to the tune of "How Great Thou Art". It's a great song to sing as a congregation since most are familiar with the tune.

Responsive Christmas Scripture readings for church or family:
John 1:1-18  pdf
"O Come Let Us Adore Him"  

My First Christmas In Heaven  This is a blessed reminder for all who lost a loved one this year.  This is the poem that Brooksyne read and wrote about in this message.  

Christmas Knowledge Test

have also posted two Christmas carol quizzes here (scroll down).

re you Christmas shopping online?

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Looking for a very special Christmas gift for your parents?  
"The Best Gift You Can Ever Give Your Parents"

Looking for a very special Christmas gift for your children?
"The Blessing"

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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