My candlelight service sermon given on December 24, 2018:
Tonight we gather in the service with remembrance of how Christ became our light. How God came to us as a babe that lied in a manger on the display before the world. How God became a man sent to us in our time of darkness. To be a light. Christ Entered our dark world to be its light. Christ has entered our dark hearts to be our light. Tonight we have dedicated time to leave the dark world, to enter this building and to be joined as the church, a city or a light on a hill that shines. We do so in a quiet reverence. Therefore, We might be surprised that the fact that Christ is our light becomes more significant when we read of Christ when he was celebrating at a feast.
“But when His brothers had gone up to the feast, then He Himself also went up…”
Here we have Jesus’ brothers going up the a feast and Jesus’ also joining them. What is the feast that Jesus is attending? It was the the Feast of Tabernacles.
The Feast of Tabernacles was the last of seven feasts God demanded to be celebrated. It was kept for 7 days in the 7th month. It came at the end of the year when the workers of the field were gathered in. It was a time of rejoicing in God’s gifts and remembering God’s deliverance from Egypt (Ex. 23:14–17; 34:23; Dt. 16:16; Lv. 23:33–43). It was attended by all of Israel, no matter where you lived, when it was time to for the Feast of Tabernacles, all men were required to be there (Dt. 16:14), yes even Jesus.
Jesus along with other participants would stay up all night celebrating in the temple courts, which were lit by enormous lamps. See, in the temple of God in Jerusalem, there were 7 golden lamp stands. The lamp stand were practically large candle stands that weighed 100 pounds each. They stood tall, 4 and 1/2 feet tall. The lamp stand resembled a tree. Each lamp stand was fashioned with three branches on each side, seven in all, seven lamps in all. On each branch there was a bowl that held the oil and it was crafted into the likeness almond blossom and with an ornamental knob and a flower.
Prophet Isaiah most likely had in mind this tree like lamp stand when he prophesied about the coming Messiah.
“In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth will be the pride and the adornment of the survivors of Israel.”
Since the holy place in the temple was without natural light, the lamp stands provided its only light. Perhaps this is a reference that connects directly with God’s light of the tabernacle.
In fact, in Revelation 4:5 we are told how there are “seven lamps of fire burning before the throne of God; which are the seven spirits of God…”
Now, the Lamp stands on earth, twice everyday, morning and evening, a priest attended the wick and replenished the pure beaten olive oil for the lamps (Exodus 30:7). The light of the lamps where to be an eternal light, meaning they were always to be burning (Lev. 24:3). Perhaps this is a stronger reference that directly points to God’s eternal light of His tabernacle.
In fact, within the 49th chapter of Prophet Isaiah’s book we are told in the 6th verse how God tells the promised Messiah how he should be His Servant, “To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel…” God said, “I will also make You a light of the nations, So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
The light of the lamp stand played a significant role for the Israelites and the Jews of Christ’s day. In fact, the light of the lamp played a significant role the Feast of Tabernacles. The lighting of the lamps in the evening on the last day of the feast, held not only a special role in providing needed light for the feast, but it held a spiritual significance as it most likely reminded them of a divine promise of the Messiah.
It is here that we consider,
Isaiah 9:2 with Isaiah 60:1–5, which reads…
“The people who walk in darkness
Will see a great light;
Those who live in a dark land,
The light will shine on them.”
“Arise, shine; for your light has come,
And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
“For behold, darkness will cover the earth
And deep darkness the peoples;
But the Lord will rise upon you
And His glory will appear upon you.
“Nations will come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising.
“Lift up your eyes round about and see;
They all gather together, they come to you.
Your sons will come from afar,
And your daughters will be carried in the arms.
“Then you will see and be radiant,
And your heart will thrill and rejoice;”
Fast forward to the New Testament… John 8:12. We are told by Apostle John in his gospel that Jesus is teaching within the temple at this feast of tabernacles, when he spoke to the crowd saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
Imagine with me for a moment, its evening, it’s getting dark in the temple courts, your sitting in darkness, and now the lamps are being trimmed by the priests. You came for the feast’s celebration, and you are watching the lamps being lite. The light of the lamps are spreading across the court where Jesus is presently teaching. The last and perhaps tallest lamp is being lite. And now, Jesus’ face lights up under the lamp light, and also your face is being warmed by the radiant light. And then, Jesus says it. Jesus declares I AM THAT “light of the world,”
While everyone who listen most likely gasps and their hearts are filled with thrill and excitement, the Pharisees they completely miss it, they don’t understand it.
This truth was said of Jesus,
“In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:4-5).
Since we are here this celebratory night, I believe that all of us here, are like those in the temple 2000 years ago, who listen to the words of Jesus and gasps, having their hearts filled with thrill and excitement of the life and light which Jesus brings to us in our dark world.
We are here tonight on a dark and cold winter’s night, in the Advent season, thinking about Jesus’ brith that warms are soul and makes us radiant. Apostle Matthew tells us that Jesus was born as the fulfillment of God’s promise.
In fact, Matthew (4:16) says that the message that was spoken through the prophet Isaiah has been fulfilled to us this day:
“The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light,
And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death,
Upon them a Light dawned.”
Jesus said, of himself, again in John 9:5,
“While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.”
Although tonight, we celebrate Jesus’s coming into the world, we know that he is no longer here physically with us, and the Light of the World is gone.
This is why Jesu told us, those of us who are Disciples of Christ,
“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
and to his body, the Church, Jesus says
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;” (Matthew 5:14).
The candles you now hold, remind us of all these truths spoken to us here this night!