Put on the Light
+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.
The text for our meditation is from Paul’s letter to the Romans, the section read a few moments ago.
Call me weird, but I love putting up Christmas decorations. I always have; I remember putting up decorations and especially the lights outside our home with my dad, just the two of us in the bitter cold, and while he may not have wholeheartedly shared my enthusiasm for Christmas decorating, we would still always have a good time. I also remember quite vividly the first time I didn’t help decorate the home I grew up in. Instead, I helped my then-future-father-in-law decorate their house at my first Thanksgiving with my then-future-wife. Not surprisingly, I was called upon to help string up the lights, which I was happy to do, but in the front yard, there are some shrubs that I’ve never been that fond of. These shrubs have branches that are tight-knit and making matters worse, they also have these gnarly thorns all over the place. You can imagine who was called upon to string the lights in those bushes. Numerous punctures and some bloodshed later, I got the lights nicely nestled among those thorns, bringing beauty and light to an otherwise hostile piece of shrubbery, an image whose metaphor has stuck with me to this day.
That image reminds me a bit of the text we are looking at today. Paul speaks of Christ as the light of the world, and that we are to prepare for the Day of His coming. However, Paul’s not talking about Christmas, since that’s an event that has already happened. He’s not concerned with trees, decorations, or even our sort of light. Instead, he desires to focus on the anticipated light of Christ’s Second Advent, the Day when Christ comes in all his splendor, power, and glory, with all the heavenly angels, banishing the darkness with His victorious light. We eagerly anticipate this unknown Day, knowing how God loved each and every one of us so, that He sent His only Son, Jesus, into this world of darkness to be our hope and light of eternal joy - the Light among thorns and darkness.
Problem is, humans beings, by our very broken nature, love the thorns and darkness; after all, we are sinners, and all sinners love darkness and decadence and death. Even as God’s dearly-loved children who have been called out of darkness into His marvelous light, it is so difficult to live as we should. After all, we are simultaneously saints and sinners, living in a world of darkness that neverthless charms and lures our sinful flesh to be captivated by its intrigue and sinister beauty.
I’m sure you’d agree that nothing good happens in the darkness of this world. So many of the sins we commit happen in the dark, where and when no one else can see them. This is what Paul is talking about in our text. He’s encouraging Christians to put away the works that need to be hidden by darkness: sexual vices, drunkenness, quarreling, and jealousy. His list is, by no means, exhaustive; you could very well insert your own pet sin into this list: alcohol abuse, pornography use, hatred, embezzlement, gossip, the list goes on.
Instead, in the verses that precede our text, Paul speaks to us about loving one another, for the entire Law of God can be summed up in one simple statement: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Rom 13:9). Through God’s Law, we know our sinfulness. But His love is the fulfillment of the Law in and through His Son, Jesus, born to be the Savior of all the nations. He was born to pierce the darkness, and under the darkened afternoon sky on Good Friday, He did. Jesus’ death is the ultimate glorious light of God’s love.
And God’s love for us did not end when Christ died on the cross. His love continued to shine through Christ as He bestows upon us the Holy Spirit, in Word and Sacrament, to bring us the gift of saving faith. Faith that clings to the blood and righteousness of Jesus that covers our individual sinful lives and unites us as believers. As sinners who have received this righteousness of Christ, we live lives redeemed out of the darkness, not by anything we’ve done, but purely by God’s free and loving gift, which cleanses us from all our sins and enables us to love as he has loved us. And this is what we do, as those who have been called out of the darkness and into his marvelous light. We desire to follow in the way of Christ, obedient and loving, not out of fear but because of his love for us first.
Through God’s Law, we know our sinfulness and our inability to escape the captivity of sin’s darkness. Through God’s grace, we know we’ve been forgiven and empowered to live in the righteous life of Christ. It is in this grace that we put on the armor of light that Paul talks about. We openly and honestly love our neighbors, living joy-filled lives. We enjoy peace in our families, exhibiting patience with our children. We express kindness, goodness, and gentleness with those who hurt us, and have more self-control with those who differ with us. Truly, this armor of light is by far brighter and stronger than any light man can imagine, for it is Christ Himself, the Light of the world, shining through. We put on Jesus as our armor of light to protect us from the darkness of this world and the temptation of the devil. Strengthened, daily, by the power of Christ’s Word and Sacraments to live and radiate his armor of light, adorned with his glory, we stand ready for his second and final coming.
Through the gracious love of our heavenly Father, who sent his only Son to be born and suffer death for us, we have been called out of the darkness of sin and into the marvelous light of Christ. “The night is far gone; the day is at hand.” Put on the light of Christ, and as we wait in eager expectation for His Second Advent, shine in His glory through the darkness and thorns of this world.
+ In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.