And the evening and the morning were the eighth day. We should not be surprised at the pattern of darkness and then light, a pattern which we see not only in the creation of the world, but also in the re-creation of all things.
I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star” (Rev. 22:16).
The Setting at Night:
A number of the events of the first Christmas occurred at night. The angels announced the good news to the shepherds as they watched their flocks by night (Luke 2:18). The wise men followed the star to Jerusalem, and then to Bethlehem, which meant that they were observing it at night (Matt. 2:9). Joseph fled to Egypt with Mary and Jesus, and he did so at night (Matt. 2:14). And one of the most obvious things about Christmas, when we step back and look at it, is that the first Christmas happened in the world’s dark night. Evening, then morning, the eighth day.
It is not for nothing that our Christmas carols have picked up on this theme—“it came upon a midnight clear,” “wake, awake, for night is flying,” “how lovely shines the morning star,” “as the Light of light descendeth from the realms of endless day, that the pow’rs of hell may vanish as the darkness clears away,” “amid the cold of winter when half-spent was the night,” and “disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight.”
The Sun Rises Slowly:
When the sun rises, it does not happen the way a light comes on in a room when you flip the switch. The sun rises slowly. First you do not know if anything has happened or not. It may be just as dark as it was a moment ago, but maybe not. And some time later, you notice that the eastern sky is not what it was. There is some kind of light there. The stars that have been visible all night begin to disappear. Soon there is just one left—the morning star, the planet Venus, the last indication that day is coming. The next event is for the sun to actually rise, for the day to come.
Christ was born at night, and His arrival was the arrival of the morning star. Note John’s language again. Christ is the root and offspring of David and He is the morning star. He is the one who was born at night, and His birth was the arrival of the morning star. It is important for us to allow Scripture to tell us what time it is. If you did not already know, you could not tell the difference between a pre-dawn darkness and a twilight gloaming. Is the sun going down or coming up?
Christ the Morning Star:
Christ Himself is the Word of God, and yet you have the Word of God in Your hands. Christ Himself is the day star, the morning star, and yet Peter tells us that to take heed to Scripture is to have the day star arise in our hearts.
“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1:19-21)
The Light of Every Man:
Jesus Christ is the light of the world. In the heart of every converted person, He is the light within, the day star in the heart. But whether men are truly converted or not, blind or not, He is the day star of the world, the rising sun of the entire world.
“In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended [overcame] it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:4-9, emphasis mine).
We ought not to think that when men are converted, they each become a little lamp, and if enough of them get converted, they will be able to form a consortium and pool their lamps to try to make a sun. The vision of the coming noontime glory does not depend at all on us trying to get some momentum up. The sun has risen, and it will continue to do what rising suns do.
Of course, individual response is important—and there are places where Scripture describes this as a light within—but it is equally important to note what the response is to. The sun has risen in the world. Christ has come. He is the king. The light covers the world. A return to heathen midnight is an impossibility. Those who walk in darkness now are doing so in a world suffused with light. This is hard to do—you have to remain blind, or hide in root cellars. There are ways to stay out of the sunlight, but they are difficult to accomplish. Not only so, but as the day passes, they will get increasingly difficult.
“Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes” (1 John 1:8-11).
The task of evangelism, now that Christ has risen, is not so much to run around at night, poking our flashlights into corners and cellars. Rather, the task of evangelism is more like pulling back the curtains. “But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Eph. 5: 13-14). Get out of that bed! Christ will shine on you!
So Pass a Law?
So the secularists don’t like the first Christmas, and they certainly don’t like the subsequent ones. What are they going to do? Pass a law? This would be worse than King Canute’s acted out parable when he commanded the tide not to come in—this would be Congress passing a law commanding the sun not to shine on places where the First Amendment was in effect.
Such laws, such foolish resistance, can cause short-term grief. Think again of Herod and the little boys he slaughtered. But think also about how ineffectual it was. Did he stop the morning star from rising? Did he stop the day from coming? In the same way, we must know that the message of Christmas is not that we have to persuade anybody of anything.
So the message is far more good news declaration than it is argumentation.
This is the message to be preached at Trinity Reformed Church. December 7, 2014.