It was all so beautiful on Christmas Eve. The candles and Christmas tree lights revealed a sanctuary full of red-and-green plaid bow ties, Santa socks, sequined sweaters, and taffeta and tights. We really meant it when we raised our candles and sang, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her king!” Our hearts expanded to prepare him room.
But then we blew out the candles, turned on the lights and everyone bundled out to their cars. Some of us stuck around to be sure that there weren’t stray candles to be extinguished, the doors were locked and the bathroom lights were turned off. In the glare of the sanctuary lights we could see candle wax on the pews, dropped bulletins, and smudges on the windows. A dropped glove lay on the front sidewalk.
The true light that shines on all people was coming into the world.
John 1:9 (CEB)
Is the true light like the make-up mirror that magnifies and spotlights every blemish? Is it a giant neon arrow pointing out every flaw? Is it a blinking caution light warning the world that we are damaged?
Someone once came on-to a friend of mine by saying, “You look beautiful in candlelight.” My friend replied, “We all look good in candlelight.” We all do. It’s easy to believe that God would choose to dwell among us when all of our imperfections are hidden by the flame’s flicker. But then we go home to the reality of dinner-table tension and family spats. It’s hard to imagine that God would choose to be in that muddle when we’re looking for a way out of there.
What if the true light isn’t either candlelight that hides our imperfections or a spotlight that highlights them? What if the true light that comes into the world in Christ is a light that reveals who we truly are, like the art restorer’s light that discovers a hidden fresco?
What if the true light is a light that shows us the way? A trekker’s headlamp that helps us pick out our next step in uncertain terrain; a porch light in the distance that tells us that we’re almost home. What if the true light is the light that floods out the front door to welcome us back from wherever we’ve been?
The true light of Christ exposes the truth of who we are with such love that we don’t have to run away. Christ’s light invites us into the heart of God where we can be forgiven for what we’ve done wrong, healed of deep hurts, and freed to share the true light of God’s love with the world.