Many of you may know Thomas Alva Edison as a great inventor. You may also know that his major contribution to the world consisted in his invention of the electric light bulb. What you may not know is that other inventors had also been working on the idea for years. In 1877 the Russian electrical engineer Paul Jablochkov lit up a Paris boulevard with arc lights. But Edison wanted small lights that could be used in homes and offices. He wanted a substitute for kerosene and gas. Edison had spent two years searching for the proper filament, or wire, which would produce a strong, lasting glow of light. When asked if he was frustrated that he had failed to perfect the light bulb, he responded with the line, “No, I have just found a thousand ways that it did not work.”
One night Edison deduced that his mixture of lampblack and tar burned out because of air. So he decided to try something that did not contain air, like carbonized thread, made from ordinary cotton sewing thread. On October 19, 1879 after many unsuccessful attempts, the carbonized thread shed good light. The precious bulb glowed all the next day. Only when Edison decided to increase the voltage two days later did the bulb burn out. On December 21, 1870 news of Edison’s invention of the electric incandescent light astounded the world. Not only did Edison’s invention of the electric light bulb change the world, his design of one of the world’s first electric-power stations was even more important because it made electricity and light available to millions of people in their homes and places of work.
But as great as this invention was, a new way to produce light, a more important light entered our world over 2000 years ago. The Holy Spirit inspired the apostle John to record, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (1:4f) John is talking about Jesus Christ who came into a world darkened by sin and it did not understand the light of Jesus. In God’s Word darkness is not just the lack of light, it is also the blackness of sin which covers the world and every person in it. As people who walk in the dark stumble and grope because they do not know where they are going, so people who walk in spiritual darkness cannot find their way because sin has blackened their hearts. The prophet Isaiah talked not only about this darkness but the Light that was coming, “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” (9:2). This world is the land of the shadow of death and the people in it are walking in the darkness of sin. Some want to continue to live in the darkness of sin as Jesus affirmed, “Light has come into the world, but men loved the darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). By nature we want to continue to live in darkness.
The apostle John states that he is not the light, but he came to witness to the light. “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world” (1:9). Later, in his Gospel John records Jesus’ own words, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (8:12). This Christmas we encourage you to not only see Jesus as the Light, but to believe in him and follow him. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of the light” (Eph 5:8).
For me one of the greatest sights of Christmas is the light of the candles being transferred from one person to another. The pastor lights his candle from the altar candle, the ushers from the pastor to the people near the aisles and that person gives light to the next person’s candle in the pew until only candles are lighting the church. The passing of the light demonstrates how God’s Word about God as the Light was passed on from prophet to Israelite, from priest to parishioner, from missionary to Gentile, from pastor to congregation member. This Christmas join me in proclaiming Jesus as the Light. “For God is light; in him there is no darkness at all…if we walk in the light, as he is in light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (I John 1:5,7).
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Cordially in Christ,
Pastor Kurt Uhlenbrauck (517) 522-4187