PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE & THE LORD'S PRAYER:
Dear Lord, we lift up these prayers in Your name, and in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, and in the name of the Holy Ghost which binds us together into a community of the faithful. As we have just celebrated the birth of Your Son, we pray that we carry with us the joy, the wonder and the love that we felt just a few short weeks ago. We pray that the Light that shone so brightly above the manger stays with us and in us. And knowing that the Light from our Lord is never darkened, we pray that each of us is a beacon shining out on a broken world, bringing peace and comfort to those in need.
We pray that our Light shines into the dark corners of this world, where violence, illness, disease, starvation and warfare crush the lives of so many innocent men, women and children. We lift up our prayers so that the Light shines forth into the dark corners of our own country.
Lord, we pray with hearts filled with compassion and tenderness that the Light shines on those who suffer here in this community. We pray that the Light shines upon each of us here, for those among us who are suffering. Suffering the emptiness of being lonely, for fear and anxiety of the jobless, the pain of those among us who are ill and those among us who are caring for a loved one who is suffering an illness.
Lord, we pray with hearts filled with gratitude and love that the Light brings us closer together in a community of God's children. And finally, Lord, we lift up never-ending prayers of thanksgiving, for Your grace and forgiveness, and most especially, prayers of renewed hope and faith, as we follow the one, true Light, which is Jesus Christ, our Saviour, who taught us to pray, saying..
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honour Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan. The people walking in darkness have seen a great Light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a Light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; the rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders, and he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
The people living in darkness have seen a great Light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a Light has dawned.
You are the Light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your Light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
1 John 1:5-10
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is Light, in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the Light, as he is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess out sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
Walking In The Light by Nancy Campbell
On Christmas Eve the choir sang "Living In The Light". The song isn't about the light of the sun, but it is about God's Light. Light represents walking in righteousness but it also represents walking in what we know. God doesn't hold us accountable for what we don't know. God wants us to constantly expand what we do know. Walking in the Light is the condition on which we may be in fellowship with God.
In the Old Testament reading this morning, Isaiah talks about darkness. Darkness is a figurative way of describing living life without regard to God's Word. Isaiah puts God at the center of events. God gives encouragement to His people when they are going through dark times. Throughout Israel's history, when the nation turned away from God, He sent prophets like Isaiah, with a message of judgement and hope. The prophets told the people of a coming Messiah, a Saviour, who would bring the people out of darkness and into the Light.
Isaiah was worried about the people of Israel. They had been living in darkness for so long that it had become normal for them. And I'm afraid that it's still happening. I'm an avid movie enthusiast and I tend to watch the Turner Classic Movie channel more than any other network because of the wholesomeness of the movies. There is no graphic violence, no explicit sexual scenes and no profanity. However, in today's society, if these three things are not included in the script, the movie is considered a `bomb.' No one wants to see it. It's shocking to me to see how much times have changed. So many things that were unacceptable or inappropriate just 50 years ago, are considered to be perfectly acceptable and normal today. In fact, we've gotten so used to the violence and sexuality and profanity, that it's considered 'normal.' Even the cartoons have changed. Would your children or grandchildren be satisfied to watch Huckleberry Hound or Daffy Duck? Probably not! And that to me is very sad!
How much that is contrary to God's Word in our society and culture, and even our individual lives, have we gotten so used to that we not only call it normal, but we even say it's okay? We live in a world of darkness and we have become blinded by the darkness. We must remember Isaiah's announcement; "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great Light. Those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has Light shined." We know that the light opens eyes that were blinded by darkness. The Light of God's Word opens our eyes and we see how blind we have become. We repent and turn away from the darkness and walk in the Light.
The Bible says, "but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another." Many teach that walking in the Light means to walk in a way that is consistent with the scriptures. This is true. The scriptures are a Light to our path. Every Sunday morning we sing "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a Light unto my path," a paraphrase from Psalm 119. The song, by the way, was written and composed by Amy Grant, who has written several inspirational songs.
Walking in the Light is also a reference to living a life that is pure and free from sin. If we are to walk in the Light as He is in the Light, we need to ask an important question. How is He in the Light? By knowing the answer, we will be able to walk in the Light the same way as He is in the Light. The scriptures tell us how it is that God is in the Light by saying, "He wraps Himself in Light as with a garment." (Ps. 104:1) When you live your life continually wrapping yourself in His Light you have fellowship with God, and He continually cleanses you from all sin. You have fellowship with Him because you are walking inside the presence of the person of the Holy Spirit.
By trusting God to cleanse you with His radiant Light, you don't have to worry about not being clean enough to draw near. Since we receive the Holy Spirit by faith, walking in the Light requires that we believe Jesus is a fountain of Light. Think of the Light you are putting on as the person of the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us to "put on the armour of Light."
When you draw near to Him, trust His radiant Light to be your strong armour. Let His glory watch over you by trusting His Light to shine upon you and protect you. The Bible also tells us, "How blessed are the people, 0 Lord, they walk in the Light of Your countenance. In Your name they rejoice all the day, for You are the glory of their strength." (Is. 89:15-17)
Will we continue to walk in the darkness or will we walk in the Light? The people in Isaiah's day looked forward to their liberation from darkness by this promised `great Light' that would come into the world. That Light has come for each of us in our baptism. However, we are still faced with the temptation of becoming far more comfortable with the darkness. Therefore, we will be constantly faced with the desire to confess our sins, and return again and again and again to our own baptism, where we were called out of darkness and into His marvellous Light.
Remember the words of Matthew: "You are the Light of the world." Enjoy this Light upon you as your protection, and remember to think of the Light as the person of the Holy Spirit.
I'm going to close with a story about God's love for us and the power of His Light.
Susie and her mother were visiting Grandma. Susie had learned a new song, at least it was new to her. Over and over again she sang:
"This little light of mine,
I'm going to let it shine."
"I like that little song, Susie," said Grandma, "Where did you learn it?" "At Sunday School," answered Susie. "Well, well," said Grandma, "now I'll sing a song for you that I learned in Sunday School when I was a little girl." And Grandma sang just as lovely a song as Susie did. This was her song:
"Jesus bids us shine with a pure, clear light,
Like a little candle burning in the night;
In this world of darkness, so we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine."
"Do you know what that reminds me of?" asked Susie's mother. "I'm remembering a little candle that was burning one night a long time ago that saved our lives. Do you remember that candle?" she asked Grandma.
Grandma would never forget! It happened when Susie's mother, Jeanne, was a little girl. Jeanne and her parents lived in an area called Florida Beach. It was a stretch of land along the east coast of Florida with water on both sides. During severe storms and hurricanes with high tides and high waves, the ocean waves would wash over this narrow strip of sand.
One day the path of a hurricane passed near where they lived. The winds had become very strong and the waves very high. Jeanne and her mother watched the waves swirling higher and higher. It felt as if their house was going to collapse and they were afraid. "I wish Daddy was home!" Jeanne could remember thinking. "He would know what to do."
Finally she and her mother decided to go to Aunt Mary and Uncle Jim's house which was just up the beach. Although they were soaking wet from the high water and the wind-driven rain, they were able to reach Uncle Jim's safely. The four were glad to be together. Soon the high water was swirling around Uncle Jim's house, too. They would have to try to get to the mainland.
All four got into Uncle Jim's car. The waters swirled against it, but they decided they had to try to reach the mainland anyway. They would have to take the road to the bridge which crossed the Intercoastal Waterway to the mainland. But there was so much water swirling around that they couldn't see the road; they could only guess where it was. They had made that short trip so many times in good weather; now it seemed to take forever. As the water rose higher and higher Uncle Jim drove slower and slower. They began to wonder if they had made a mistake in leaving home. Maybe they couldn't make it to the mainland!
They were almost to the bridge when they drove off the road into a ditch. The car got stuck and water started to pour in. It didn't take long for them to see that if they stayed in the car they would surely drown. There was only one choice left — leave the car behind and start walking.
The wind tore at them. Palm trees had blown down everywhere. They waded through water that was nearly two feet deep. They were wet and cold and it was getting dark. They hardly knew where to go.
It was then that one of them spotted a little glimmer of light. It was only a candle, but that candle showed them the way to a house that was still safe. The people who lived there had placed the candle in the window for that very reason — to guide people to their home. Inside there was protection and warmth.
The two songs that Susie and her grandmother had sung were both about a candle. They tell us that those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Saviour should be a Light shining out to others. Our light doesn't have to be a big one. The light shining in the window that saved four people from the hurricane was just one small candle. Even just a small light looks bright when all around is dark. The Lord Jesus
said, "I am the Light of the world: he that follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life." (John 8:12) If we let even a little of His Light shine out in our lives, it will be bright in the dark, sinful world around us. Won't you let your Light shine for Him?