The Light of God:
A Christmas Message
December 24, 2005
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
My dear friends, as I welcome you this Christmas Eve, I invite you to take these moments and simply relax. Take this moment to be your sacred moment of Christmas. Let this be the moment when the true meaning of Christmas can come and dwell in your heart. That is my prayer for you tonight.
We know what the true meaning of Christmas is. It can be summarized in one word. That word is Jesus. Now, I know that all of you probably have a lot to do, and there may be some of you sitting here tonight who are going to go home and be up for quite a long time doing whatever it takes to get ready for tomorrow morning. Is that so, or is that just me? I bet some of you are in that same boat.
But take this moment, now, in this sacred place, to think about the true meaning of Christmas, which is Jesus.
My friends, I have three wishes for you this night, three steps to Bethlehem. And I pray them for each and every one of you. Whether you are brand-new to the church experience, and whether the whole idea of faith is kind of foreign, or whether you have been a Christian and a faithful church-goer for years, I have three steps that I’d like to offer you for coming closer to Bethlehem and coming closer to the Lord.
The first step is to see it – see the light of God – to be captivated by some remarkable thing about God, and to feel that fascination in your heart. That’s where spirituality begins. That’s where the spiritual journey takes its first step. In our reading from St. John, we read the words, “We have seen His glory, the glory as of the only begotten Son of the Father.” What does the word glory mean? It means light, heavenly light. The Gospel writer, John, is exclaiming that he and the other followers of Christ have seen a special kind of spiritual light, and that vision of the light never lets them go. His life long, he is captivated by a vision of God, by something about God that fascinates him.
Have you seen it? Have you been captivated by it? Have you been captivated by some experience of God that won’t let you go? I’ll bet you have, even those of you here tonight who may not claim to be particularly religious. Perhaps there’s something about this religion thing, this faith thing, that sort of fascinates you and draws you in. Is there? Then you have seen the glimmer of His light. The Gospels says, “We have seen His light, the light as of the only begotten Son of the Father,” and that makes all the difference. That’s the first step, to see it.
Where have you seen His light? Where have you seen the fascinating mystery of God? Moses saw it on the job. He was a shepherd watching over the flocks of his father-in-law on the hillside. And he said he saw a vision, a bush that was burning but not consumed. He was drawn to it, and then he heard a voice that said, “Moses.”
He said, “Here am I.”
The voice said, “Take off your sandals, because the ground upon which you walk is holy ground.”
Moses was captivated by the vision. Are you? Have you seen His light? Is there something about God that fascinates you and captivates you? Well, if so, whether you’re brand-new to religion or a veteran to the faith, you have taken the first step of spirituality. Even those of us who have been in the church for a long time need to recapture the excitement of a vision of God. What will it be for you tonight? What will it be for you in the days to come? Where will you see His light? Will you see it in the face of a child? Will you see it in the vision of a grandparent and a grandchild hugging each other? Will you see it in the awesome artistry of nature as I do each morning when I take my morning walk? In the incredible colors of the sunrise? In the remarkable texture of the hemlock pine and the blue berries against the green? Where will you see the fascinating light of God? It’s the first step to Bethlehem, the first step on faith’s journey…to see it.
The shepherds of old, when they were visited by the angel, got a glimpse of the light of God. Now, did they say, “That was nice; let’s go back to work”? No, they didn’t do that. They said, “Let’s go! Let’s go unto Bethlehem and see this wonderful thing which the angel of the Lord has made known to us.”
They would see it, and then they would receive it. Once we see a vision of God, once we are captured by the light, we can’t just leave it at that. Oh, we can, but life is so much more exciting when you receive it, when you say, “Lord, there’s this fate knocking at the door of my heart. I’m not sure what it is, but I’m just drawn to you. I’m going to invite you into my heart. I’m going to receive you.”
And, dear friend, let me tell you: When you do that, everything changes. You begin living life in the light, and that is the most high and wonderful thing you can do. In a little while, we’re going to celebrate a very sacred and special moment. I’m going to take a light from the Christ candle in the center of our Advent ring, symbolizing the presence of God. I will carry that light here to the center of the church, and I will distribute that light and share it with each of our ushers. They will come down the aisle and they will share the light with you. Will you receive it? The receiving of the light is a symbol of the acceptance of Christ in your heart.
See it. Receive it. And then, share it. For most of us, we’ll have the opportunity not just to hold onto the light but to share it with the people next to us. And that light from our candle will grow and grow, and it can grow forever. Soon, the whole room will be aglow with light. If you’ve seen the glory, if you’ve received it, then it’s your turn to share it, by your example, by your invitation, by your words to one another. Let them see your light; let them see what God can do in a person’s heart.
Aren’t you glad for the people who have shared God’s light with you? Can you think of them? Do you see their faces? I can picture the beautiful face of a woman named Mrs. Rapp. Mrs. Rapp had wonderful rosy cheeks and silver gray hair. She was a Methodist Sunday School teacher, and she was the sweetest person. She had the simplest, kindest attitude and a strong faith. I remember, as a twelve-year-old boy, thinking that I’d like to have what she had. She was so generous in sharing her faith with me. I’ll never forget her, and that was a while ago.
I’ll never forget Father Fred Miller, the priest who baptized me and shared his faith with me and coached me through my teen years. I watched his faith when he lost his precious mom. I watched his faith as he ministered to a huge parish. He shared his faith with me, and I’m grateful for him.
Who is it for you? Can you picture their faces? Don’t you want to be like them? It’s your turn. Someone is looking to you, to have their faith kindled. You are the only Bible some people will ever read. Share your faith as well.
See it. Receive it. Share it. And then finally, dear friends, this one thing: A remarkable thing happens when people of the light gather. There is a glow that happens on a Sunday morning. There is a wonderful feeling that takes place when all of us gather together and share our vision of the light. It’s like that moment when we’ll be holding our candles upward, filling the room with light tonight. See it. Receive it. Share it. And become part of the family. Come enjoy Sunday morning with us. Come enjoy corporate worship, because there is a light there that is larger than any of ours.
May it be so for you. Will you see it? Will you receive it? Will you share it? My hope and my prayer is that you will say, with a resounding echo in your heart, “Yes, I will!”
Friends, will you pray with me for a moment?
Lord, I ask your blessing on all these wonderful people. May they be richly honored and blessed for being here this night. May a special vision of You come to each one in the days to come. May they be open to receiving You in their hearts like never before, and may others see in them the light that is unique, and be drawn to You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
God loves you, friend. I do, too. Merry Christmas, and may God bless you all.
© 2005 Anthony J. Godlefski