16 December 2023

Advent 2023: Born a light for revelation

Major Emma Knights

Major Emma Knights reflects on how Jesus dispels the darkness of our world.

Key text

I love Christmas! I collect Nativity scenes and usually have 30 of them in my house all year round and some in my office at William Booth College. I enjoy the Christmas lights that appear at this time of year too. They break up the darkness as the light shines through.

Pause and reflect

  • People rely on lights to help them see in the darkness. How many lights are there in the place where you live?

Our study passage is often read at Candlemas. The festival of Candlemas, or the Feast of the Presentation, commemorates the presentation of Jesus at the Temple 40 days after his birth. It is one of the oldest festivals of the Church, celebrated since the 4th century.

It officially marks the end of Christmas and is celebrated at the beginning of February, so you can leave your Christmas decorations up until then if you like.

In accordance with the Law, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple. However, the Temple was not a quiet space. There were money lenders, animals on sale for sacrifice and crowds of people. Mary would have been left in the Court of Women, as she was allowed no further into the Temple building. Joseph would have gone to buy a sacrificial animal and then taken it to the priest at the altar.

It was amid all this bustle, noise and smell, that Mary and Joseph met Simeon.

A photo shows baby Jesus' foot sticking out of blankets.

Luke 2:30

For my eyes have seen your salvation.

Read Luke 2

We are told that Simeon was moved by the Spirit to go into the Temple. He had been told that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. In our study passage we read: ‘Moved by the Spirit, he went into the Temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel”’ (vv27–35).

Simeon held the infant Jesus and spoke of how this baby was to be the light and hope for the world.

Jesus is a gift from God and still brings light into our dark world. In John 8:12 we read: ‘When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”’

We need the light of Christ to show us the right path, to illuminate our way, to shine on us and show us the life in all its fullness that can only be found in him. Today, in so many different places, there is war, famine and destruction. It can feel like a very dark place, but Isaiah prophesies about the one who is to come and bring light: ‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned’ (Isaiah 9:2).

We live in a world that needs its darkness of hatred, injustice and despair dispelled. Our lives should encourage people to explore what life with God is like. It reveals reality and truth, and our lives should reveal the truth about God. We should reflect the light of Jesus.

Pause and reflect

  • What do we each reflect in our lives?
  • Do we show Jesus in all we do and to all we meet?

Isaiah’s words, which are often read at Advent and Christmas, still have relevance for us today.

‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his Kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this’ (Isaiah 9:6 and 7).

Pause and reflect

  • How does Isaiah’s description of ‘people walking in darkness who have seen a great light’ reflect our experiences?

When we have power cuts, we soon discover the importance of light. What would life be like if we had no light? One candle in a dark room can make such a difference. However, Isaiah speaks of a different light – Jesus – who entered our world to be our Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. This is the real message of hope that was not only for Isaiah’s time, but also ours.

Pause and reflect

  • Jesus is still the light of the world. How can we share and reflect his life and light this Christmas and into 2024?

Bible study by

A photo of Emma Knights.

Major Emma Knights

Open Learning Co-ordinator, William Booth College

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