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 any thing 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.
One of the earliest surviving worship songs that the Church has sung is an Advent hymn written in the 3rd century entitled “Phos Hilaron” or “O, Gladdening Light.” At that time in Jerusalem, many worship gatherings were held in dark catacombs to avoid persecution from Roman troops and religious leaders. As these believers gathered under the cover of night to worship the Lord Jesus together, traditionally candles and lanterns would be lit as they lifted up these ancient words of praise together:
Joyous light of glory of the immortal Father,
Heavenly, holy, blessed Jesus Christ,
We have come to the setting of the Sun
And we look to the evening light.
We sing to God, the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.
You are worthy of being praised with pure voices forever.
O Son of God, O Giver of Light,
The universe proclaims your glory.
For over two thousand years now, the Church has celebrated Advent by worshiping and remembering Jesus Christ—our “Giver of Light.” He alone was sent by the Father with a divine mission to bring life and light to our dark world. Although there are moments where our world seems to be growing dimmer by the moment, the light of Christ “shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). Whenever this verse is read aloud at Christmas, I’m filled with a deep sense of awe and expectancy. Like a child waiting for the dawn of Christmas morning, I long to see the light of Christ break into every dark corner of our broken world. One day soon every shadow of sin and death will be chased away by the light of Christ’s glory! As we wait for this day to come, Jesus has left His Church with a mission to fulfill:
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. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
While the Church cannot radiate Christ’s light to the world in our own power, the Lord has given the Holy Spirit for this very purpose. As we fix our eyes on Jesus and ask Him to fill us with the Spirit, something miraculous happens—we become a community that’s aglow with Christ’s light and love!
As we enter into the Christmas season together, here are few practical opportunities to shine the light of Christ’s love to others in your community:
- Support a foster family in need by donating new and gently used clothes for kiddos ages 0-5. For more information, visit withloveoregon.org or contact Krissy Hires at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Put together a Restart Kit for a refugee family in need with your Community Group. For more information on how to assemble and drop off a Restart Kit, visit refugeecarecollective.org.
- Invite someone who feels lonely over for dinner to encourage and express Christ’s love to them.
- Throw a holiday party where you can get to know your neighbors better. (Tip: Make it fun by encouraging everyone to wear an ugly sweater or doing a white elephant gift exchange.)
- Check out riverwest.org/serve for many more opportunities to serve alongside others this Christmas season.