Advent – as with so many things at The Geneva School, meaning of the word is from Latin (advenire) “to arrive.”

At this time of year, as we celebrate the arrival of Jesus, as we anticipate the coming of the Light of the World, light is so integral to our celebration of Christmas. There are lights on tress, lights on houses (hundreds of thousands on a house near my home). And there is candle light on Christmas Eve.

Light – so basic, simple, yet so mysterious and profound. From the earliest time, humans have tried to create light to fight against the dark – which of course is not a thing in itself at all – it is only the absence of light. We take light for granted until we don’t have it! Then we find ways to manufacture it so that we have it artificially. First fire, then oil lamps, then electric lighting (which I still think is a form of magic) and more recently portable light through battery powered flashlights (wonderful in hurricanes). But light is still a mystery to me. It intrigues me. I am one of those people who can stare at a fire all night.

Mr. Jain, Mrs. Schaefer and Mrs. Andrews, Mr. Polk and Mr. Andreasen, our science teachers, could tell us a lot more about the nature of light from the scientific point of view, but let’s think about it from the perspective of Advent.

As we have already mentioned, “light” is woven into our celebration of Advent and justifiably so since light is woven even more pervasively into the tapestry of Scripture.

In the beginning God created . . . light!

Even though we walk through the valley of the death shadow. Darkness is scary! But God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.

Isaiah said that People walk in darkness, . . . and upon them, a light will shine.

Then in the Gospel of John, one of the major ideas throughout the Gospel is the contrast between light and darkness. John begins by telling us that the Word was with God and was God and in Him was life and light, and this light shines in the darkness [that is, it shines in the darkness of our fallen world of sin] and the darkness cannot overcome it.

Later in John, Jesus declares, “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” His light not only gives us direction and comfort, Jesus says that His light gives life itself!

Then as our Scripture reading this morning reminds us, Jesus also called us to “Put our trust in the light while we have it, that we might become children of the light!”

Later in the New Testament, Paul tells us that “the god of this age [the devil] has blinded the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine in darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” His light is life, and His light is knowledge of His glory! . . . and soooo many people are blind stumbling in darkness . . . even though they think they see.

And in our Old Testament reading from Isaiah and again at the end of Revelation (the last book in NT) we are told that there will be a time when there is no more night, and no need for sun or moon, since God Himself will be the light.

God is light, and in Him there is no darkness. Light is so pure and clean. When we are afraid we run to toward light for safety and security. Maybe you have a night light in your house just in case.

Darkness is the absence of light. Darkness hides, obscures, frightens. TV and movies so often contain dark scenes portraying evil deeds. And while darkness is only the absence of light, it is real, isn’t it? It comes earlier and earlier every evening now in the winter. And there are places in our world where it feels particularly dark. We live in a fallen world. A world of spiritual darkness.

John 3 we read very familiar words. But listens to what follows immediately: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Jesus says we love darkness rather than light because our deeds are evil. But we also live around darkness, don’t we? Jesus knew darkness as well. He understands.

Darkness was real when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Herod the Great was a dark and evil man (less said the better). Darkness was real when Jesus confronted demons and unbelief, real darkness fell at His crucifixion. . . . Darkness is real in our world today.

But it only takes. . . a little light . . . to make darkness flee – instantly! And there was light when angels sang to the shepherds, there was light on the mountain of transfiguration and there was light on the morning of resurrection. And there will be no need for any other source of light when we are with God in all His glory.

Advent celebrates the arrival of Light . . . into a dark and broken world. Our candles at Christmas Eve are fragile. But the light of Christ can never be extinguished. It is eternal. This brings to mind a metaphor from Tolkien – the phial of Galadriel, the star crystal. This gift to Frodo was given with the promise that “it will be a light for you when all other lights have gone out.”

Our fires grow dim. Electricity fails. Our manufactured battery-powered lights run out. But if we have the light of Christ, we will always walk in the light.  However, if we are not in Christ, if we are separated from Him, we remain in darkness. In Isaiah 42 the Lord speaks through the prophet ff Jesus His Anointed One saying,             “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;I will take you by the hand and keep you;  I will give you as a covenant for the people,a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.”

Seventy years ago, in a Nazi prison, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that a prison cell is a good analogy for Advent. He said that in prison, “One waits, hopes, does this or that – ultimately negligible things – but the door is locked and can only be opened from the outside by someone else.” John Piper expands on this saying, “There are two sides to Christmas. There is a hopeless precursor side to Advent. Until God arrives we have no hope for release from the imprisonment of our sin. We are stuck and condemned and the door is locked from the other side. We depend completely on Someone from the outside to free us.”

There may be some here who are still imprisoned in the darkness and condemnation of sin and unbelief. Or perhaps there are some here who are children of the light who have wandered from the light into a prison of some kind and you need to return to the Source of light. When we trust the One who is the Light of the World, He unlocks prison doors and floods the darkness with the light of life.

Of course the other side of Advent is that when Jesus comes and when we unite with Him, we become children of light. And He has come not merely to bring a little light, to add illumination to what is already here. He does not merely bring a bit of focus and clarity. Rather, He has come to put everything into an entirely new light.

John 8:12, “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Following Jesus, trusting Him brings everything into a new light. Clear, pure, safe. Alive, abundantly so, and eternal.

This month, as you see lights on houses, lights on a wreath or on your tree, lights everywhere, and finally perhaps candle light on Christmas Eve, remember that our celebration of Advent is a celebration of the arrival of God’s light in Jesus to push back and defeat the darkness and the imprisonment of my sin and your sin. When you see all these lights, remember that in our sin we are locked in prisons of darkness, unable to escape. But in Christ, we are set free, brought into light, and into life.

Let me close with one more line hidden away in Psalm 36. There in verse 9, David sings, “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” Did you hear that? In God’s light – which is Jesus! – we actually can see light.

May God give us each the grace not only to hear about the light, but to see the light of Christ this Advent season.