Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” — John 8:12
Every Christmas we hang lights on the Christmas tree. This reminds me that Jesus—the light of the world—hung on a tree.
The cross—in its original, ancient Roman context—represents rebellion and death. Those who rebelled against Rome were crucified publicly for all to see. Crucifixion wasn’t just a quick and painless death penalty. It was a long, agonizing way to kill. Crucifixion both tortured and shamed the rebel. Between the shame and the agony, the hope of Roman officials was that this sort of public penalty for rebellion against Rome would chase away ideas or plans of rebellion.
The cross became a symbol. It was a symbol of death, torture, violence, rebellion, tyranny, and oppression. It was a symbol of everything wrong with humanity and the fallen word we inhabit.
Jesus transformed this symbol. Jesus, the Son of God, the light of the world, the one who is innocent, the one who was completely faithful and obedient to God the Father, hung on the cross and redeemed what it represented. By hanging on the cross, Jesus took on the penalty of sin (Is. 52:13–52:12). Jesus took into himself the curse that we deserve. In giving his life as a ransom (Matt. 20:28), Jesus transfers us from a kingdom of darkness to a kingdom of light (Col. 1:13).
A symbol that struck terror in the hearts of onlookers became the preeminent symbol of hope for the world. Jesus brought light to the darkness (John 1:5).
When we hang lights on the Christmas tree, we are reminded that Jesus redeems death. He brings light to the dark spots. He brings true justice. He brings lasting hope. He brings eternal joy.
The cross in its original context represents rebellion and death. It was a symbol of death, torture, violence, rebellion tyranny, and oppression. Now, in your context, and in my context, it represents obedience and life. Because of Jesus, it now represents life, comfort, peace, obedience, mercy, and justice. This Christmas, as you hang lights on your tree, invite the Light of the world to the dark places. Let him bring redemption. Come, Emmanuel.