Jesus’s being “the light of the world” means the world has no other light than him. If there is going to be a light for the world, it will be Jesus. It is Jesus or darkness. There is no third alternative. No other light.
It means, therefore, that all the world, and everyone in it needs, Jesus as their light.
It means that the world was made for this light. This is not a foreign light. This is the light of the owner of the world. When this light comes, it not only makes sin plain as foreign and ugly, but it also makes everything good in the world shine with its full and true beauty. This world was made to be illumined by this light. This light of Christ is native to the world.
And finally Jesus being “the light of the world” means that that one day this world will be filled with this light as the waters cover the sea, and all darkness, and all the works of darkness, and all the sons of darkness will be cast out. That’s why Jesus called hell “outer darkness” (Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30). In that day, all will be light. Jesus, the radiance of the Father, will fill the world, and everything will be beautiful with the light of Christ.
The Christmas story needs reclaiming. Not just from consumerism but also from being sanitized into a nice story that is just “for the children”. Through the school nativity play we have successfully romanticized the incarnation. Rather than it being wild and in need of “parental guidance necessary” warnings, we have happily let Disney play with it.
Jesus was not born against the backdrop of a clean stable with neatly brushed animals and sweet, elderly shepherds, but into the tension of a violent and chaotic world. If we were producing a more realistic version, the story would include a neurotic and psychotic warrior king murdering children to maintain his own power, and crippling political taxation imposed by the government and the religious authorities in Jerusalem. There would have to be a religious-fundamentalist village proposing to stone a pregnant teenage girl. We would have frightened, underpaid child labour in the form of young shepherds working in the fields at night. There would be political refugees displaced owing to political unease between Rome and the Temple. We would also have visitors travelling from pagan countries in the East to worship the child in accordance with their foreign religions. They certainly were not Christians.
It’s in this mess that the incarnation occurs. The incarnation places God at the heart of a tormented world and His light shines into that world. It’s this incarnation that tells us that God isn’t scared to get dirty. The incarnation tells us that God has a plan. The incarnation tells us that God is for us and with us. The incarnation tells us that this God is humble and true to who He is. The incarnation tells us that God is closer than we think. It’s into the mess of addiction, loss, pain, self-harm, eating disorders, debt, grief, bitterness, and depression that Jesus wants to bring something new. He wants to bring His light which is the Light of the World; Jesus. Christmas isn’t just for the kids; it’s for the lost, lonely, and broken, and those on their knees with no place to go. Christmas is hope born for all people.
Jesus is the Light of the World that pierces our darkness.