Understanding the true meaning of Christmas begins by understanding and admitting the darkness of our world. Not the darkness of winter’s short days, but the darkness of ignorance and evil, suffering and pain, fear and anxiety, dark despair and gloomy grief. These and more describe what the Bible means by “darkness.”
It’s not enough to recognize the darkness in our world, nor is it enough to think you can brighten it through your own good intentions and efforts. In fact, this is the very reality that the Light of Christmas reveals: That we not only live in a dark world, but we have a darkness in our souls that cannot be enlightened without a Light from outside ourselves, a Great Light that could overcome our soul’s darkness. In Isaiah 9, he encouraged the people of Israel with a Messianic prophecy of a Son who was to be born as a great light that would overcome the world’s darkness. We can believe that the great Light that overcomes the world’s darkness has come in the person of Jesus.
Below is an automated transcript of this messageAlright, what a wonderful morning it’s been already. Amen! It has been so great; I love Christmas music. I love singing about Jesus. Today we’re going to focus on thinking about why there are so many lights at Christmas time. Why are there so many lights, why are all of those lights on the trees and the windows? Why are lights hanging like icicles on the roofs; why are lights shining everywhere? Why do we have all of the radiance with lights? It’s kind of ironic because it’s at the darkest time of the year. I read, in the almanac, that December 21st in 2020, will be the darkest day. The day will be shorter and the night will be longer. Right now is the darkest time of the year, but yet, we are hanging all of these lights. Christmas lights point to Jesus. They point to the fact that He’s the true Light, but we won’t fully understand that unless we first understand the darkness.
Understanding the darkness is the beginning of understanding the importance of why we need light. Christmas lights point to a spiritual truth, as Tim Keller has said: “Christmas contains many spiritual truths, but it will be hard to grasp the others unless we grasp this one first. That is, that the world is a dark place, and we will never find our way or see reality unless Jesus is our Light.” Pastor Keller’s got it right; he understands the reality of Christmas. It is not just the light, but it’s the Light overcoming the darkness. The Light has come. It has pierced the darkness.
Today, we’re going to be looking at what the prophet Isaiah said about the coming of the Messiah. He called Him a “great light.” That’s the title of our sermon today, “A Great Light.” Because as the gospel of Matthew recorded, Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. His prophecy is one of over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament, foretelling the coming of Jesus. He talks about the people who are living in darkness. He talks about a coming great light. We’ve entitled this message, “A Great Light.”
Matthew said it’s Jesus. When he saw Jesus and he wrote his gospel, he said , “Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. He’s the great light.” He says this in Matthew 4:16 (ESV) “the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”
Have you ever been on a beach trip and it rains every day? You say, Oh, man, I waited for the whole year for this vacation, and it rains every day. Then, you get up one morning and you look out the window and pray, Please, Lord, please, and there comes the sun. The sun dawns.
Jesus has come. He is the great light. He has fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah. You see, understanding Christmas is to understand that Christmas is not this sentimental, syrupy thing about the toys and Santa Claus and the food and all these things. These are things we do to celebrate, but that’s not the meaning. To fully understand the meaning, as we have said, you must fully first understand that we live in a dark world.
In 1971, John Lennon, one of the Beatles, was writing a protest song. He had written several songs protesting the Vietnam War. Going into theChristmas of 1971, he wrote this song protesting the Vietnam War. You can hear, in his lyrics, that he understood the darkness. He talks of fear, poverty, racism and war. He’s against all these things. Listen to some of these lyrics; I think you will recognize them because they come on the radio every year. It’s become one of the Christmas classics:
“So this is Christmas. and what have you done? Another year over and a new one just begun. And so this is Christmas. I hope you have fun. The near and the dear one, the old and the young. And so this is Christmas for weak and for strong. Ffor rich and the poor ones, the world is so wrong. A very merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear. And so happy Christmas for black and for white. For yellow and red ones. Let’s stop all the fight.”
So the song concludes. John Lennon got part of this right, didn’t he? He saw the racism. He saw the prejudice. He saw the war, not just in Vietnam, but between all of us. He saw the darkness. He saw the fear. This could have easily been written in 2020. But he missed something. He says, “and what have you done?” Let’s stop all the fight.” He’s missing something. If we could have changed it by now, we already would have. We can’t. The problem is us. We live in a world of darkness. Without the great Light, Jesus , our souls are also in darkness. The answer must come from outside of us. I believe that the Son has come. What Isaiah foresaw happened 2000 years ago, the prophecy was fulfilled and a great light has dawned.
As we look at the text today, I think we’ll see three ways that Jesus, as the great light of the world, changes our reality. First, let’s read the text. Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 (ESV) 1 “But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time , he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone… 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” This is God’s word.
We’re looking for three ways that Jesus, as the light of the world, offers us how to overcome the darkness. The first way is he offers us hope as the light of the world .
Jesus as the Light of the world offers us: 1. Hope.
He offers us hope. When we think of darkness and light as Isaiah is prophesying, he’s not talking about what you see. He is not talking about the winter solstice; He’s talking about a spiritual reality. Darkness and light here, throughout the scripture, this is true; it’s not just in Isaiah. This is a metaphor; darkness is always a metaphor in the Bible for evil, for suffering, for sin, for trouble. It’s also a metaphor for ignorance and it causes fear. It causes fear.
How many of you remember, as a child, being afraid of the dark? Do you remember being afraid of the dark? How many of you are still afraid? Okay, you don’t have to lift your hands. Okay, you still have a nightlight, right? We’re afraid of the unknown. We’re afraid of the dark because who knows what is lurking there?
When I was a child, I slept in a bedroom that I shared with my younger brother. We had twin beds. My parents, my mom and dad, would come in and they would say “goodnight, tell us they loved us and we prayed our night prayers. As they would leave the room, my father would start to turn off the light, and as his finger would go towards the light switch, I would say, Wait a minute, Daddy, could you close the closet door? I couldn’t stand that closet door being opened in the dark. You never know what could be in that closet. It was something about the darkness causing shapes that you’re not afraid of in the light. But in the darkness, you were terrified because your mind would play tricks on you.
Would you say that we live in a season like that now, where your mind is playing tricks on you? There’s so much division, so much discouragement, so much fear. That’s all the the social media and the TV give is just fear, fear, fear, fear. But this Light brings hope. This Light has dawned. This is the message of Christmas. The dawning of Light brings hope. Let’s look at the setting of when Isaiah is writing. He says in chapter 9:1, “But there will be no gloom for her.” This is speaking of Israel, who was in anguish. She’s in pain; she’s in fear, he says, “In the former time,” because just before Isaiah is writing this, the Northern Kingdom of Israel is conquered by the Assyrians. It was the area where the northern tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali had lived. They lost everything and the Assyrians carried them off in slavery and replace them with their own people. And so he says that this happened in the former time, former to him, former to Isaiah’s writing that the Northern Kingdom fell. It’s only the southern kingdom of Judah that remains.
He says that there is good news in the latter time. In other words, after Isaiah; it is former to us, because Jesus has already come. But His coming is after Isaiah. 1 “…but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.” Where is the land beyond the Jordan? “Galilee of the nations,” what’s that? It’s the land of Galilee. Of the nation, what’s that? So the word, “nations,” in Hebrew is the Hebrew word “gentiles” or “non-Jewish.” He’s being very specific about where this Light will dawn that the Holy Spirit is revealed to him.
You know that I like maps, right? You have learned that about the pastor. I love maps. So pop the map up and let’s identify, first of all, the way of the sea. What does he mean by that? He’s referring to what the Romans called the “Via Maris;” this was the road that went from Egypt through the Golan, through the area past Egypt. This is through the area of Egypt along the Mediterranean. It would cut along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee and, strategically, it would pass through the town of Capernaum, which became Jesus’ base of operations during His ministry This is where Peter and Andrew lived. This is where James and John lived. This was a fishing village on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. And Isaiah saw it coming, through the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. He said that a Light is going to dawn. It looks like darkness; you’ve lost your land. You’ve lost your nation. I know it looks horrible. I know it looks like the end of times, but there’s One comin. The Son is going to come up.
A great Light is going to dawn on the way of the sea and the land of Galilee, of the Land of Galilee, of the Nations of the Gentiles. So, what is he talking about? During the time when Jesus came, this area was called Decapolis, during the time of Jesus, which means the ten cities, and it was all Gentile. In fact, Jesus, over on this shore, is the place he drove the demons out of the man and drove them into the pigs. Do you remember that?
There were no pig farmers where my map has gone. There were no pig farmers on the Jewish side of Galilee. But there are a lot of pig farmers on the Eastern Shore. , Isaiah saw this. How did he see it? The Holy Spirit pulled back the veil and showed it to him. A great Light is coming. It was confirmed in the book of Matthew confirmed . It’s Jesus. He has come.
As we think about this time, let’s look at why this was encouraging to these people. Perhaps we should look back a little bit and see in chapter eight the degree of darkness they lived in. Let’s look at it a little bit. Isaiah 8:20-22 (NLT) 20 “… People who contradict his word are completely in the dark. 21 They will go from one place to another, weary and hungry. And because they are hungry, they will rage and curse their king and their God. They will look up to heaven 22 and down at the earth, but wherever they look, there will be trouble and anguish and dark despair. They will be thrown out into the darkness.” It could have been 2020 but it wasn’t . It was like 500 years before Jesus, 600 years before Jesus, before He even came.This is what it was like. And Isaiah gets this wonderful prophecy; it’s dark now, but Light is coming. The Messiah is coming. Light is coming. Look how they lived in trouble, anguish, dark despair and fear. It was a fearful place and so much anger, and they were talking bad about the king, and they were blaming it on everybody. It is a bad season, but there’s a time coming when they will see a great light.
How do we get this? We won’t get it from other people. We won’t get it from a presidential election. We won’t get it from a medical community. If we keep looking in those places, we might find temporary hope or we might get a “band aid,” but we won’t know real hope. Real hope casts out fear; this hope comes from the outside of this dark world. It comes from the outside of our sin-darkened hearts. This kind of hope comes from Jesus.
Romans 15:12-13 (NLT) 12 “And in another place Isaiah said, “The heir to David’s throne will come, and he will rule over the Gentiles. They will place their hope on him.” 13 I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” In this scripture, all three members of the Trinity present. Jesus is the one that will inherit David’s throne, and we will place our hope in Him. As a result, the source of hope, which is God, will flow out of you to others. So, get your lower lip up off your lap. I’m trusting that you’re doing that right now. You’re getting your lower lip up off your lap at home. Start smiling. Start being hopeful. If you know the Lord Jesus, a great light has dawned in your life. It overcomes fear. That’s what Christmas is about; it’s not sentimental or syrupy. It’s realistic. Real hope can change the way you’re feeling right now; way you’re facing the world. We’ve seen a great light. When you turn to the great light, the light of the world. Jesus Christ, His light casts out fear.
So that’s the first word, as a result of this great light? The first word is hope; . we can have hope. Let’s look at the second word. Jesus as the Light of the world offers us: (2) Truth. Remember that darkness represents evil and sin. It, also, represents ignorance.
Okay, I hope it never happens to you, but if you live very long, this has happened to you. You’ve been living in your house for a while and you need to go to the bathroom in the middle of night, and so you just don’t have time to turn the light on. If you’re married, you don’t want to wake your spouse up. So, you go to the bathroom in the dark; you think you know where the bathroom is and you know how to navigate your room, but you don’t. You turn a half step too soon and you catch your pinky toe on the edge. okay? You start talking to Jesus like you haven’t done in a while. Why? Because you’re walking in darkness. You thought you knew your way around, but you didn’t. You were walking in ignorance of the fact that the bedpost was closer than you thought. That’s funny, isn’t it, unless it happens to you. Hope it doesn’t happen to you; it’s not funny. . You think such a small thing wouldn’t hurt so much but it does.
The truth is, if we walk in darkness, um, we don’t know the truth. We’re blind to the truth. That’s why our invitation to people is “to come just as you are.” We’re not trying to get people to change before they come in the door because they don’t know what they don’t know. We’re not trying to judge people, because the truth is, they are spiritually blind. They’re walking in darkness. What someone needs to do is to turn the light on in their life, to bring the light to them, so that they would see that they’re in darkness and say, I don’t want to be here anymore. I want to come into the light.
There’s no reason to judge people that are walking in darkness and are blind. It’s the reality, but the truth is, we can see where that bedpost is. We can navigate. We can see our way around because we no longer have to walk in darkness.This is the truth of the Christmas story that Jesus came as a great light and He brings us out of the darkness.
Look at the level of darkness in chapter eight. Let me read a couple more verses from Isaiah, chapter eight, to give you the background of this message that’s being given to them, it says Isaiah 8:19-22 (NLT) 19 “Someone may say to you, “Let’s ask the mediums and those who consult the spirits of the dead. With their whisperings and mutterings, they will tell us what to do.” But shouldn’t people ask God for guidance? Should the living seek guidance from the dead? 20 Look to God’s instructions and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark.” Isaiah is describing the state of Israel during this time. They weren’t going to the Lord. They weren’t going to his Word. They were going to mediums. What’s going on in 2020 ? Let’s ask our horoscope. All that person is doing, according to Scripture, is they are peering more deeply into the darkness. The only way to see the truth is for someone to turn on the light. The light comes from the outside. It doesn’t come from within. You look within and find your answer. But garbage. It’s not within you, it’s without. He comes from heaven. He comes as a child at Christmas. His name is Jesus. He’s the great light, fulfilling the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah. We look to him. He’s the great light. He’s the truth. As we think about the darkness, it represents lack of knowledge, specifically and especially spiritual knowledge.
This weekend, I’ve had the privilege of talking a lot about other countries with Daniel and Elizabeth. I visited them when they lived in Indonesia, and I hope to visit them, in the coming days if the Lord delays His coming, where they’re headed now. Ifyou go to their table and look, as they mentioned, you see the map of their destination country. You’ll see it’s all black, representing the darkness of that country. They’ve never really heard the gospel because no one has ever told them. Can you believe that? They walk in a dark land. They are a people who walk in darkness, and they dwell in a land of deep darkness. Who will tell them; who will go?
Remember what Isaiah says earlier in this book, he says, “Here I am, Lord, send me.” They need the truth. Maybe some of you need the truth today. You’re still looking for answers in the wrong places. Come to the light.
Ephesians 5:13-14 (NLT) 13 “But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, 14 for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead and Christ will give you light.” That’s why some people run from Christ. They run from the light because they know they have evil intentions. Most crimes take place at night. There’s a reason; it’s part of human nature. We want to be secretive.
You have to be humble to receive the true story of Christmas. You have to humbly say, I admit I’m living in darkness, but I don’t want to anymore. You have to swallow your pride, bow down and say, You’re the light and I’m not. There is no light in this land I live in. This requires humility; some of us are afraid because we already know the truth and we know we’re hiding in the darkness.
Jesus said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” You see, light and truth go hand in hand. The psalmist prayed like this, Psalm 43:3 (NLT) “Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me. Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you live.” His prayer has been answered. Jesus has come. He is the truth. He is the light.
John 1:9-10 (ESV) 9 “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.” That’s amazing, isn’t it? The One who made the sun that shines upon the earth is the Son; He’s the son of God. He created the world. He is God. He is the truth. But, we just keep stumbling around and stumping our pinky toes. We just keep stumbling around, causing our own suffering and our own discouragement.
Listen to me, believer. Walk in the light as He is in the light. Come out of the darkness. Let the light shine; Jesus says you’re the salt of the earth. You’re the light of the world. If you’re not a believer today, step into the light for a moment. The light will be really bright and it will expose sin areas in your life that you didn’t even know about, but don’t worry, He loves you. Your sins are already paid for. You can come into the light because He will forgive you and He will wash you. Come on into the light and see the truth.
Here’s the third word. We’ve said that He gives us hope. This great light, He gives us truth.
Jesus as the Light of the world offers us: (3) Life.
He gives us life. Darkness means fear. Darkness symbolically represents ignorance. But the worst of all is it really represents death. It really represents sin, evil and suffering. It means all of these things. Just as life on earth would perish if the sun blinked out. The source of the energy for plant life, animal life and human life is not on this earth, but comes externally from the sun that shines. You know this.
It’s just as true, spiritually as it is physically, Jesus is the light; He is life itself. He’s life. Notice what it says that this light is a child. That’s what Isaiah predicts. The Holy Spirit tells him this. He says that a light will shine in a land of deep darkness. A light will shine; a great light for those people who walked in darkness.
In verse six, he says, “For to us, a child is born.” Are you “us?” Am I looking at us? Can you place your name in “us?” Was Jesus born to you? He was born to the Jews; Isaiah was right that He was born to the Jews. But He’s also born to the Gentiles because he mentions that up there in verse one that He’s born to all of us . if we would receive Him. Why do I say receive Him? Because He’s a gift to us. “A son is given.” He’s a gift.
When you get a gift on Christmas morning, it has your name on it. It’s wrapped up. You know it is your gift, but you say, Nah, I’m not gonna open it. What? Who does that? Nobody does that. Yes, they do. They do it all the time. Jesus is the greatest gift of all. Will you open it? It’s not really yours to you. Open it. Will you receive it? Will you receive Jesus? He’s a child born to us. He’s a son born to us. He’s given to us.
What kind of child is this? What kind of son is this ? Well, He’s got a government and it’s going to sit on His shoulder. He’s going to establish an everlasting government. He has these four titles that are all divine titles, which means He is God, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. Those were His titles. Those are the titles of God.
God is going to be born to us. He tells Israel in verse 7, “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end.” It will be everlasting; it will have no end. He’s going to sit on the throne of David, which was predicted by the prophets prior to Isaiah, that the Messiah would come and be born into the house of David.
He will be born in the city of David, which was Bethlehem. How many of you picked the city you would be born in? Nobody? Okay. It was predicted that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem and He would bring justice and righteousness. This is Jesus that Isaiah is predicting would come.
Isaiah has more to say about this. If you go back to Isaiah 7:14 (ESV) “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall shall call his name Immanuel.” Immanuel means “God with us.” He was born to the Virgin Mary. This is the miracle of Christmas. We hear it every year. But we don’t really let it penetrate our hearts or let it penetrate our life.
John 3:16 (ESV) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Those who follow Jesus have the light of eternal life.
John 8:12 (ESV) “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.” You’ll no longer be like those people who walked in darkness, in the land of deep darkness. You’ll be walking in the light if you come to Jesus and believe in Him.
John 1:4-5 (NKJV) 4 “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” Listen, no matter how dark your days may seem, no matter how discouraging or fearful or hopeless, no matter how much suffering and fear you have, this light of Jesus will overcome it. The light of Christ overcomes the darkness of the world and even the deeper darkness of the human soul. Do you know him? Do you know this gift of Christ Jesus as your Lord and Savior? Stop trying to get your life under control. Stop looking in all the wrong places for truth and for happiness in life. Stop hiding in the darkness. Come into the light. He’s the great light. His name is Jesus. He’s the light shining in the darkness. Be willing to humble yourself, swallow your pride and say Lord, I’m in darkness. I confess my sin. I can’t do this without you There’s no answers for me other than you Will You come into my life? Will you be the light of my life?
Let’s pray right now and ask the Lord to do that. If you’re watching at home or in person, I hope you’ll pray with me right now. Dear Lord Jesus, I’m a sinner. I need a Savior. I’m walking in darkness and discouragement. I have fear of so many unknowns and, on top of all of that, I’ve got so much anger. There’s so much that I’m aggravated and frustrated about. Lord, would you save me? I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, that He was raised from the grave on the third day and that He lives today. Come and live in me; forgive me of my sin and make me the person you want me to be. I want to be a child of God. I want You as my Lord and Savior. If you’re praying that prayer right now, believing, the Bible says, “If you confess Jesus as Lord with your mouth and believe in your heart that He was raised from the grave, then you’ll be saved.” It’s a matter of faith. It’s a matter of opening the gift and receiving Jesus, the great light. There are believers here today; would you pray with me, believer? Have you let fear overcome you? Have you let darkness overcome you? Have you become hopeless and frustrated? Have you asked Jesus what is going on? Have you asked the Lord? Let’s do that right now. Lord Jesus, we want to walk in the light. We want to walk in the truth of Your life and, more than that, pour out your light in us so that we abide in You in such a way that the light shines from us to others Oh, Lord, let it be so in Jesus’ name. Amen.