Thinking It Through: Shine as Light Wherever You Are
By George Bristow
During this season, Christians worldwide celebrate the coming of the Light. We wonder as we ponder the incarnation of the eternal Word of God: “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.” (John 12:46)
We rejoice because Jesus’s birth announced the dawning of light in our dark, chaotic world. He gives the light of life to all who follow Him—bringing salvation by the remission of sins “through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:77–79)
What does incarnation have to do with missions? He who came as the light entrusts the mission of being light to His followers: “You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14) As Jesus’s death becomes our death and His resurrection, our resurrection when we believe in Him, so His mission becomes our mission.
Earlier, Isaiah had prophesied about the Servant being light to the nations, and the apostles took that as their own commission—“For so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles [nations], that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’” (Acts 13:47)
For the Son of God, incarnation meant becoming fully human in a particular setting. He spoke Aramaic, talked with all sorts of people, and sat at their tables, eating Middle Eastern food. Jesus was light in their particular darkness.
What did it look like when light came into the world (John 3:19)? Jesus walked miles to one town in Samaria, met a woman as she drew water, asked her for a favor, talked with her about her life, and then revealed His identity to her before spending two days in her town teaching (John 4). The light of the world shone in their hearts, in their place, and in their space.
As followers of Jesus today, each of us in our particular setting is called to be light to those our Father brings us into contact with. We should visit them and talk with them, telling them Christ’s story: His death, resurrection, and future return. We are the coming of light to their particular world. Some of us are sent to other parts of the world, but it is the same mission.
This applies to us as individuals but also as assemblies of His disciples. When our Lord said, “You are the light of the world,” he added the imagery of a city to show that this calling is communal: “A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matthew 5:14)
God’s dwelling today is not the temple on the hill Jerusalem but the local church. Only when assemblies are brightly shining lights can they “send the light” overseas. Let’s fan the flame of our church witness by praying, planning, and stirring up love and good works (Hebrews 10:24).
Once, Donna, my wife, was asked to speak at a conference. While preparing, she became discouraged, comparing her seemingly small efforts in a ministry to refugee women and children with those of her energetic friend Carol, who led the ministry. As He often does for Donna, the Lord brought a song of encouragement to her mind:
Jesus bids us shine,
With a clear, pure light,
Like a little candle burning in the night;
In this world of darkness, we must shine,
You in your small corner,
And I in mine. (1)
God gives each of us a small corner in which to be light, as individual followers of Christ and also as local assemblies. Whether in the Middle East among Muslim neighbors or in North America with neo-pagan or nominal Christian neighbors, we are called to be light for them. Let’s rejoice in the coming of the Light and shine as He bids us. ■
George Bristow serves in Special Areas.
(1) Susan Warner, "Jesus Bids Us Shine," 1868.