City Lights & Christmas

by | City Lights


The name of this newsletter has been “City Lights” for decades. It’s based on Matthew 5:14–16: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your
Father who is in heaven.”

Churches are supposed to be different from the world. Our good works are meant to shine like a light into the moral and spiritual darkness that surrounds us.

Christians, in other words, are supposed to be different than we used to be. Our good works are meant to shine like a light—by contrast to the moral and spiritual darkness that used to define us.

“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (John 3:19–21).

Sadly, this is often not the case for professing Christians or for churches bearing the name of Christ.

Selling Half a Jesus

“Easy-believism” refers to peddling or buying into a false spirituality. It’s a spirituality that says “Believe!” but never “Repent!” It offers a place in the kingdom without teaching the ways of the kingdom. It says “Hope in heaven!” but not “Live for God!” It invites you to celebrate Christmas without calling you to take up your cross.

The counterfeit spirituality of easy- believism has been on the market—in assorted editions—from the very beginning of the church. It’s a lot easier to mass-market Christmas trees than crosses.

But Jesus doesn’t peddle easy-believism. He doesn’t cash those checks.

That’s because he does not intend on short-changing those who look to him for grace. God’s unmerited favor is a package- deal, because it comes through his Son, who is Lord, not just Savior. We don’t deserve to be pronounced guiltless when we trust in God’s Son, but we are! We also don’t deserve to be called into the service of God’s Son, but we are! It’s all grace—but it’s all- encompassing.

To receive the invitation to come be forgiven is also to obey the command to come be changed. To grab hold of the Savior by faith is to bow the knee to the King in repentance.

Which brings us to Christmas.

Cross-Shaped Christmas Lights

From the moment of his birth, Christ’s death and resurrection came into view.

The Christmas tree—casts a cross- shaped shadow.

We couldn’t celebrate the baby laid in the manger if not for his body laid in the tomb. His birth as the son of David, from the womb of Mary, finds its purpose in his bursting from the tomb—when he’s declared with power to be the Son of God (Romans 1:4).

And this Son of God has sent the light of his gospel into the world to create a people marked out by the obedience that comes from faith—City-Lights, born-again children of God shining a spotlight on the goodness, grace, and glory of our risen Savior.

Christians—are to shine a spotlight on Christ and his cross.

Believer in Jesus, does your life shine a light on Jesus? We do this in many ways. Mostly in small ways and by small steps: asking forgiveness, asking for strength, asking for wisdom; showing up, singing
praises, sticking with each other; doing our chores, holding our tongues, helping our
neighbors, praying for our bosses; loving and leading our children, serving our spouses;
speaking about Jesus.

Our light shines, but it flickers. We never outgrow our need for grace. By grace God gives the increase for those held fast by and holding fast to the Word of life. Would you pray with us for what we need from him in this upcoming year?

Growing knowledge of the Word of God,
Growing submission to the will of God,
Growing dependence on the grace of God,
Growing love for the Son of God,
Growing affection for the people of God,
Growing concern for the enemies of God,
Growing passion for the glory of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Merry Christmas from BHOF!

Jordan Roberts

Cover Image Design: Naomi Cusimano