Embrace Our Vocation to be the Light of the World

Ever wondered why we have so much light at Christmas? We have lights on the Christmas trees, nativity sets, our homes, churches, public buildings, etc. I have even seen a brightly lit graveyard entrance at Christmas time. What then is the connection between lights and Christmas?

There are lights at Christmas because Jesus, the light of the world, is born on Christmas light. He fulfilled the ancient prophecies, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in a land of gloom a light has shone” (Is 9:1). Jesus also points to Himself as the only source of this light in this world, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” (Jn 8:12)

As Jesus’ disciples who are called to bear His light to the world, we must reflect on the very nature of this light of Christ and what it means for us.   

The light of Christ comes to us only through intimacy with Christ. We do not have this light in us or in anybody else apart from Him, “In Him was life, and this life was the light of the human race.” (Jn 1:4) If Jesus calls it the “light of life,” then we just cannot bear His light in this world without participating in His life by living in His grace and love as He invites us to do, “Abide in me as I abide in you.”(Jn 15:4)

This point has serious implications for us as disciples. Our first task as disciples is to seek to live in a state of grace. We must first seek to live holy lives filled with the love of God before we even think of speaking or witnessing to Jesus Christ. Only hearts filled with His life of grace can be His effective witnesses able to communicate this life and impact others.

The light of Christ shines always, especially in the darkest moments and places, “What came to be through Him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn 1:5) The word of God assures us that the darkness in our lives and in our world cannot prevent the light of Christ from shining brightly. On the contrary, the presence of darkness only serves to make this light more radiant.

This is a source of joyful hope for us as Jesus’ disciples. We witness the darkness of sin and error in our lives, in the Church, and in the world. It is so easy to become pessimistic and to forget the life-giving light of Christ that we bear. We erroneously think that we must first dispel all the darkness before we can give witness to Him. In truth, we are divinely equipped to bear the light of Christ in the darkest moments. If our contemporaries persistently ask us in dark moments, “Where is God?” then maybe we have let darkness prevail over the light that we bear. 

This light of Christ does not force anyone but only invites and draws us. This light can be rejected or even opposed, “The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world; He came to what was His own but His own rejected Him.” The birth of Jesus in a manger gives witness to this rejection from those whom He came to save.

Many can choose and do choose to reject this light of Christ. They can choose to close the eyes of their hearts to this light. They can choose to be obstinate in sin and error. Our world is full of those who choose darkness in the face of light. But this light does not impose itself on us, “I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”(Jn 12:46) He shines gently and persistently while respecting our freedom.  

We disciples thus follow Him and embrace His words to us with freedom and generosity. We are not complaining and whining about His laws and commands or about the trials and sufferings that we face as His disciples. We are not discouraged by the lack of visible results as we follow Him or the costs of our discipleship. We do not lose heart when people persecute us or reject our witness. We also freely invite others to experience this light and do not take their refusal personally.

This light of Christ is the most powerful thing in this world. It can transform us sinners into God’s beloved children, “But to those who did accept Him He gave the power to become children of God.” This light purifies us of our sins and allows us to live for God as His beloved children. It has power for interior renewal as well as power for holy living.

We can never experience the power of this light of Christ until we actually allow this light to permeate our hearts. Only a humble reception of this light will allow us to experience its transforming power. In addition, we cannot know the power of this light until we begin to live as children of God.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the light of Christ is present and began to shine in the manger in Bethlehem. This was the same moment when the life of grace became present in this world with its power to transform us completely, “The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly and devoutly in this age.”(Ti 2:11-12)

We also received this light of Christ and His life at the moment of our baptism. This light must shine brightly and spread to all hearts, no matter the darkness that we are facing in our lives and in this world. Our sinful and broken world is badly in need of this light and life. We cannot afford to let this light fade for any reason because it remains forever the source of hope, joy, and strength for all of us.

Jesus Himself has also made us the light of the world and commissioned us to bring this light to others, “You are the light of the world…Let your light so shine before man that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father.” (Mt 5:16)

Jesus, the only light of the world, renews His light within us in each Eucharist so that our light never dies out and we help others to keep their own lights shining brightly too.

Glory to Jesus! Honor to Mary!

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Fr. Nnamdi Moneme OMV is a Roman Catholic Priest of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary currently on missionary assignment in the Philippines. He serves in the Congregations' Retreat Ministry and in the House of Formation for novices and theologians in Antipolo, Philippines. He blogs at  www.toquenchhisthirst.wordpress.com.

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