And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1: 14

As Mary and Joseph traveled from their home to Bethlehem, a trip that had been mandated by governmental decree, they probably had very little concept of what was really happening. While the eighty or so miles went by, their conversations would surely have covered a wide range of topics, they had about a week of time together to consider their rather new life as a couple and the impending birth of their son. Despite the contact from God regarding Mary and her role in God’s plan to redeem us from evil, they could not have formulated much in the way of an image of how the world was to be changed through their simple obedience. They were doing what they had been told to do, and they would just continue to follow the directions that the Spirit of God would provide.

Yet, in that dark juncture in human history, inside of a cave that was used to house livestock, the glory of God would burst out into our worldly lives. This is the glory that is the light that brings truth and depravity into stark contrast; this is the glory that focuses on the hearts of all people, and shinning as a beacon, it guides the willing to everlasting sanctuary for their souls. God’s glory also serves His children like a lighthouse serves sailors, it warns us of the dangers and the traps that surround us in our life journeys, and it points to the safe channels that will get us through it all successfully. God’s essential character and nature were born into our world as the man Jesus; thus, we could see and relate to our Creator in a way that is absolute and highly compelling to all who will engage the relationship.

Despite our knowledge of God gained over the past two thousand or so years, our technology, and our abundant resources for gaining understanding of God’s will for us, we each still need to enter into our own journey with much the same attitude that Mary and Joseph exhibited. Theirs was a journey of faith and one in which they trusted God. They knew that their lives would never be the same; yet, they also knew that the Lord would take them to places that were greater than any that they could have imagined. Just as they did, we can open our hearts to the glory of God in our world, trust Him to guide each step of our journey, and live as the beneficiaries of His loving grace. Thus, as we live in the fullness of Christ’s glory, we are also bringing the presence of that holy light into the darkness of this fallen world. 

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden, nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.

Matthew 5: 14, 15

 

There are many bright and shiny lights in our world. We can acquire then from stores in our towns and from sources around the globe. We turn them on and they fill the space around us with their glow. But our need for light doesn’t stop with light fixtures, lamps, and candles, for we also fill our world with electronic devices that shine with the words and the sounds of others. We seem to need the presence of these luminaries in order to understand our culture and so that we can attempt to find a place in the universe. People, I include myself among them, frequently look toward celebrities, politicians, and athletes as the light that guides us away from the emptiness, the futility, or whatever else is lacking in our normal lives. All of these earthly sources of enlightenment will fade, rub off with use, and be extinguished in the process of living out our days.

 

The only light that remains at the end of all days is the singular light that was present before any of the rest of creation came into being. God was present before He devised any of this world or the universe that surrounds it. Then He proclaimed the presence of light. This light precedes even the sun in God’s creative work. Light with all of its properties of illumination, clarification, purification, protection, and health for the body, mind, and soul is a primary gift that God provided to His beloved creation. Then, in time, He would join us in our travels and in our troubles and be the light of the world so that anyone who believes in Jesus, the Christ, would never again walk in darkness (Jn. 8:12). This is the light that Jesus is speaking about in these verses from Matthew. He is that light that cannot be hidden, and His truth is the radiance that should never be concealed so that everyone can be influenced by the healing touch of its eternal glory.

 

God’s gift of the light of His love, grace, truth, righteousness, and peace has existed from before the created universe; it came into our world in the presence and the person of Jesus; and now it dwells within each of us who follows Christ. In Christ we are light bearing vessels. We have a mandate from Christ to let this light of the Gospel shine out from us in every aspect and into all of the corners of the world that we inhabit. This flame that burns within us is fed by God’s Word as we read it, contemplate its message, listen to it being taught, and discuss its meaning and application for us and for our world. It is strengthened by engagement with God through on-going prayer, and it is nurtured, encouraged, and magnified as we gather in the fellowship of God’s people, His church. As God’s people we do not need earthly sources of light or human understandings of enlightenment. In Christ, we are to be on view, boldly burning with the flame of His truth as we open our hearts and our homes as sanctuary and as places of nurture for the people of this world as they seek out the true light that saves souls and heals broken spirits.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Romans 14: 17

 

As Christians we tend to dream of a future time when the broken pain of this world and of life in it will be gone. In this time when Christ has come back to destroy all that is evil and to establish His perfectly just reign on earth God’s people will no longer live with the harsh reality of disease, violence, and suffering that are an unavoidable part and portion of our lives today. This is a worthy dream, and it is a promise that God has made which demonstrates the Creator’s heart for redemption and restoration of His creation.

 

Yet, this future promise is not the reality of today, and there is nothing that we can do to either hasten its advent or control God’s timing. What we can do is grasp the fact that, in Christ, we are already citizens of this new kingdom. We have surrendered our birthrights as ones who hold primary allegiance to an earthly country and accepted a higher authority as our rightful Ruler and Lord. This new identity in which we hold a heavenly passport frames and shapes everything about the way that we view our responsibility to God in our daily lives. The rules that we have established for life no longer apply. This is true for rules of propriety and for those of personal pleasure,

 

Instead, we are called by God to live by His standards and as emissaries of the priorities of God’s kingdom. This means that we are to love others without condition or reservation. We are to be people who seek to bring justice to others who have no voice or capacity to express themselves. We are granted the grace of God in absolute and total abundance, and we are empowered by Christ to give grace to others and in all of the circumstances of life. As followers of Christ we are provided with wisdom and capacity to enter into the suffering and the struggles of humanity and the ability to withstand our own portion of these same hardships. Through prayer and meditation, study of God’s Word, and in the fellowship of believers, followers of Christ can bring this new kingdom of righteousness to our neighbors for the glory of God and the salvation of their souls.

I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart, for I have overcome the world.

John 16: 33

 

Jesus tells things as they are. He had just informed the group of followers who were closest to Him that there would be hard times coming very soon and that during those times, they would fail miserably at being strong, steady, and faithful to Him. Still, during these hardest moments of His life on earth, Jesus would not be alone, for God, the Father, would never leave Him. Likewise, God never leaves us.

 

Living in this world has its tough moments, its harsh hours, and its tragic days. Episodes come to us all where simply living can be a challenge that seems almost impossible. Yet nothing that we are required to endure comes close to the stress, pain, and feeling of abandonment that Christ endured on the cross for each of us. I am absolutely amazed at the fact that Jesus took on so much for me, for you, and for everyone; yet, all the while He knew just how ungrateful and unfaithful we would be. God wants to be close to each of us so much that He would endure anything to make that a possibility.

 

As I go about the business of this day and as I adopt the attitudes that will shape may approach to what comes my way, I am praying that Christ’s Spirit will keep me remindful of the overwhelming victory that is mine through Him. This world in which I now reside is broken and crumbling from the destructive forces of sin, but those ruined halls are no longer my true dwelling place, for Christ has placed me in the center of His victorious kingdom. I am praying that trust in God’s victory and that faithfulness to His calling will allow Christ to direct my mind and fix my heart on Him alone. Therefore, I desire to claim this day and all of my interactions during it for the glory of God.

 

How can you believe when you receive glory from one another, and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God.

John 5: 44

 

Jesus is questioning how far we will go and what we would be willing to do in order to gain recognition, fame, and glory. We live in a culture that is constantly elevating individuals to places of notoriety and that seeks to find people who have accomplished something special or who have achieved something that sets them apart from the pack. However, the problem that we have in all of this is that we seem to have such an insatiable thirst for vicariously viewing the activities of these celebrities that behaviors that are noteworthy only for their stupidity, harmfulness, or lack of righteousness are too often the ones that gain recognition. The other element of this thirst for prominence that was troubling to Jesus and that should disturb us is that people, in general, will gravitate toward sources of easy praise and will set standards of behavior for themselves that are intended to gain it.

 

Sadly, we humans will settle for the dim light of this sort of recognition when a radiance like the sun could be ours. There is only one source of true light, for it comes from the Creator of all lights. Also, real, lasting glory is the reflection of the character of God, Himself. Since God wants to be with us and to engage with us in our lives, and He works in our hearts and minds to transform us from being darkened by the stain of sin and its death to being radiantly alive in Christ, we have access to the glory of God.

 

The question that Jesus posed and that we should be asking ourselves is why do I seek the praises of people and compromise God’s standards for living righteously when I already have the gift of recognition from the great and generous Father? God continually pours out His blessings onto His children, they rain down like an unending stream of brightly colored confetti, and the Lord celebrates each and every moment that we choose to follow Him and bring light into our world. Let’s take the glory of Christ into the darkness that is trying to surround us so that we can share our knowledge of it’s one and only source with people who desperately are in need of something to celebrate and of someone who will lovingly care for their needs.