The collection of illustrations below is all about becoming a light to the world. It is about becoming a good example, about living as a true Christian.

God Is in Everything

When Christians say, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of
grace and truth,” they do not mean that God is everything, but they do
mean that God is in everything. “In everything,” wrote Paul to the Romans,
“God works for good with those who love him … ” (Romans 8:28). The
theologian Robert McAfee Brown likes to use in his writing the musical
metaphor of themes and variations.  There are many musical compositions,
Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony for example, which begin with a clear,
identifiable musical pattern, or theme. What follows in the music is a
series of variations on this theme, the theme being repeated in ever more
complex combinations. Sometimes the texture of these combinations is so
complex that the theme is hidden, seemingly obscured by the competing and
interlocking notes. But those who have heard the theme clearly stated at
the beginning of the work can still make it out, can feel the music being
organized by the theme. In Jesus Christ “the Word became flesh and dwelt
among us, full of grace and truth ….” That’s the theme of all of life
heard clearly by the ears of faith, and those who have heard that distinct
theme can hear it being sounded wherever the music of life is being
played, no matter how jangled are the false notes surrounding it.

Thomas G. Long, Something Is about to Happen, CSS Publishing Company

Witnessing Involves Listening

While I believe that the gospel is always a proclamation about God’s
actions, effective witnessing involves a lot of listening. For a
proclamation to be “good news” for someone, it has to address their needs,
their questions, their concerns. I’ve often quoted this statement from a
course on witnessing: “You don’t throw a drowning person a sandwich, no
matter how good the sandwich might be.”

Brian Stoffregen, Exegetical Notes

The Word Became Flesh

If John’s Gospel were the only one we had, this is all that we would know
about Jesus’ birth: before his name was Jesus, his name was the Word, and
he was with God from the very beginning of creation, bringing things into
being, making things happen, shining light into the darkness.

He was God’s self, God’s soul, God’s life force in the world. He was the
breath inside all living things. He was the electric spark that charged
peoples’ hearts. He was the fire inside the sun. He was the space between
the stars. He was the axis around which the galaxies spin.

John goes on to say that not everyone got that message. Many were blinded
by this light and preferred the darkness they knew to the light which they
did not know. The Word sidled up to them and hummed life into their ears,
but they cleared their throats and walked away. So God decided to speak in
a new way. God decided to speak body language. “And the Word became flesh
and lived among us — full of grace and truth.”

This is John’s Christmas story in a nutshell. Like Luke, John is telling
us about an encounter with the Holy One. God’s Word was translated into a
human being. God’s self, soul, and life force were concentrated into one
mortal life on earth, and as a result, nothing would ever be the same
again. Not because everyone listened, because everyone does not, but
because the eternal Word of God took human form.

Paul E. Flesner, Sermons for Sundays in Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany,
CSS Publishing Company

Entertaining Angels Unaware

The Letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament reminds us of that
incident, and counsels Christians to make hospitality a Christian virtue.
“For you may be entertaining angels unaware.” But more than that, you may
be doing it to Christ, who said, “If you have done it to the least of
these, you have done it to me.”

Tom Long teaches at the seminary at Princeton. But for a while he lived in
Atlanta, and attended a Presbyterian Church in downtown Atlanta. Like most
downtown churches, it has to cope with the problem of the homeless. So
they opened up their gymnasium in the winter as a shelter. It was the
practice of that church, as it is in this church when we open our
buildings as a shelter in the winter months, to have people from the
church serve as hosts and hostesses.

Long volunteered to be a host one night. The night came and since no one
else volunteered, he invited a friend to come and join him. His friend was
not a member of that church. In fact, he wasn’t a member of any church.
But periodically, in their conversations about religious matters, this
friend would say, “Tom, I’m not a theologian, but it seems to me…,” and
then he would express his opinion.

On this night as they were hosting the shelter, they met the men as they
arrived, saw that they had something to eat, hung out with them for a
while. Then as the men began to prepare to retire, Tom’s friend said,
“Tom, you get some sleep. I will stay with them the first watch, then I’ll
wake you up, and you can come and stay with them for the rest of the

So the friend stayed up and mingled with the guests, listened to them,
asked questions about who they were, what had happened to them in their
lives that they were now homeless. At 2:00 a.m. he went in and woke up
Tom. He said, “Wake up! Wake up! I want you to come and see this. Granted
I am no theologian, but I think that Jesus is down there.”

It was promised. “Those who show hospitality to the least of these,” he
said, “have done it to me.”

Mark Trotter, Collected Sermons,


Living without Christ

Fred Craddock once told a parable about a man who moved into a cottage
equipped with a stove and simple furnishings. As the sharp edge of winter
cut across the landscape, the cottage grew cold as did its occupant. He
went out back and pulled a few boards off the house to kindle the fire.
The fire was warm, but the house seemed as cold as before. More boards
came off for a larger fire to warm the now even colder house, which in
return required an even larger fire, demanding more boards. In a few days
the man cursed the weather, cursed the house, cursed the stove, and moved

The futility that man felt is the futility of those who try to live the
Christian life without Christ. He is the Word that was in the beginning
with God and was God. And he is alive today. To those of us who are
drowning he is someone we can hold on to. He is someone who can set our
feet on dry ground again in this New Year.

King Duncan, Collected Sermons,

Glory to God in the High Street

Many years ago a pastor in Glasgow, Scotland named George McLeod chanced
to look up at the stained-glass windows over the chancel of the sanctuary.
The phrase, “Glory to God in the highest” was carved in the glass. As he
looked he noticed that a pane of glass was broken and missing, the pane on
which the letter “e” in the word “highest” was carved. Suddenly he found
himself seeing the words that were now there, “Glory to God in the High
St.” High Street was a nearby avenue. It struck McLeod that the only way
to glorify God IS to glorify him in the High St.  The only way to truly
glorify God is to glorify him where we live, work and play. Certainly John
did that. He did it in his preaching. He did it in his life.

Robert Raines, The Secular Congregation, quoted by King Duncan

Among You Stands One

“Among you stands one whom you do not know.” I suspect there is a lot of
truth to that statement, especially at Christmas time. We think of Jesus
as the one born in a manger. But Jesus is not just a baby. We have all
kinds of misconceptions about who Jesus is, so that it may well be true
that he stands among us as one we do not know.

When we try to describe the Incarnation, we find it difficult to make
positive statements. How can we explain that the Son of God gave up being
God to become a human being for such a short period of time? We have
difficulty explaining that. Even the theologians grasp at all kinds of
language to try to explain the mysteries of our faith. Paul Tillich said
God was the Ground of our Being. I think it was Rudolf Otto who used the
phrase, “the mysterium tremendum,” the tremendous mystery. We can’t find
words big enough, strong enough and powerful enough to describe the
mystery at the heart of the Christmas message.

Mickey Anders, A Negative Gospel


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