Light – the very first created thing. The way God chose to reveal His Glory: a burning bush, a fire on top of Mount Sinai, a pillar leading the Israelites. It was no accident when Jesus taught that He was the Light of the World. The fulfillment at the festival and feast of lights. Those who were spiritually blind tried to extinguish the light, but it could not be done.
And yet paradoxically, Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world, a city on a hill that can’t be hidden. For at Pentecost, the glory of God has now come to reside in us, His Spirit. So we reflect the light of God into the world.
And so we enter this season of Advent. We light candles. Speak of this Light of the World. And prepare for the second coming of Christ. But throughout this time of preparation this is joyous, the readings found in the lectionary on Sunday mornings often feel a bit ominous. We are continually being warned: “Be Ready!” In Matthew 25, the parable speaks about: “keeping our lamps trimmed.” But given our culture today, we struggle to make sense of all of this.
When we take a step back to understand the context that Jesus was speaking into… The first temple had a beautiful menorah. Seven candles. The festival of lights. The light symbolized God’s presence amongst His people. The original stand found in the temple didn’t actually have candles as we know them today but were topped with seven small cups. In Leviticus, we read that the priests were commanded to fill these cups with the finest olive oil to burn for light. Precious and expensive. A wick would rest in the oil and the cup. If the priests wouldn’t perform their duties and check the oil, it would run out and the light would go out. They also had to care for the wick. When a wick burns, it leaves behind a blackened portion. If that isn’t trimmed, the candle or light doesn’t get enough oxygen, and it goes out. As this represented God’s presence, it was unthinkable to loose it.
And so we are warned to be ready. To have enough oil to make it through the night as we wait for the bridegroom. To keep the wicks trimmed, to be ready at a moment’s notice for the second coming of Christ. As we enter this season celebrating the day of Christ’s return – when there will no longer be pain, suffering, tears, sadness, trials, tribulation… What preparations need to be made? Of course for family celebrations but on a deeper level. What areas of life require a re-filling of lamps? Or trimming away the dead wick? Not just a start/stop list or another to do list, but what is the greater vision? What good things are you being asked to say no to so you can say yes to better things? To not just “live” but “live abundantly?”
And as we peel back the layers of the onion, we can’t walk away from these passages of Scripture as just another to do list. But we ask ourselves in light of God’s Word what confession do we need to make? The beautiful words of God’s forgiveness and grace echo over us. We pray that God would reorient us to read these words given as Promise. Grace. Mercy. That it is not about our actions but about the Savior of the World who has come to rescue us. For the true light of the world is coming. And there will be a day with no more sadness, tears or darkness. For He who promises is faithful.
Scripture Readings –
Week 1: Isaiah 64:1-9; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37
Goals and Focus –
Week 1: Our Faces are Lit (Mark 13/Matt 24) – In commentary on Matthew 24, Ken Baily shares cultural background. The lamps mentioned are not used to light the pathway or ground. Rather, at that time, as you journey at night, the lamp is used to light your face so people can see who you are. We read that Moses’ face was required to be covered with a veil after meeting with God because it would shine so brightly. The Shekinah Glory of God now lives in us through the Holy Spirit – 2 Corinthians 4. Maybe safe isn’t the right way to describe what God is calling us to. But we are human lanterns pointing to Jesus to the people and place God have called us to corporately and individually.
Week 2: Lift Your Eyes (Isaiah 40) – When the people of God hear “wilderness” in Isaiah 40, they remember the Exodus. Rescue. And God leading them by a pillar of cloud/fire. (Light) When difficult times come, don’t go back to Egypt. Lift your eyes – look to God’s leading.
Week 3: Reflect the Light (John 1) Stop trying to be God. You’re the one called to reflect the light not be the light. It’s not “be the change you want to see in the world.” But what’s your part in the body of Christ? The hand, the foot? Do your part. Not someone else’s, stop trying to compare. (Creative Idea: Use mirrors during the children’s sermon to reflect light from one source in a dark sanctuary/worship space.)
Week 4: Dwell With Us (2 Samuel)- “Will you build me a home? Go do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.” Rather God chooses first to dwell in our midst —-> God has always been with His people. Moving from the Mountain of God to the Tabernacle. From the Tabernacle to the Temple. Clothing Himself with Humanity. And finally, His dwelling place is in us through His Spirit in our Baptism. It’s always been God’s desire to be with us. The eternal light. We are blessed to do all that is in our hearts for His Name’s sake, for God is with us.