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What did Jesus mean when He said “You are the light of the world” ?

As we approach the time of the year when days are getting shorter and nights longer we become more aware of the importance of light. The sun, of course, is the earth's light, without which life on earth could not exist; it's a necessity for plants, animals and humans alike providing both heat and light.

While delivering His Sermon on the Mount Jesus said to the people gathered "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden..." (Matt 5:14).

What exactly did Jesus mean by this when elsewhere He said that He was the Light (John 8:12)?

Both John 9:5 ("While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world") and John 12:35 answer this question. After Jesus left earth for heaven, the responsibility of being the light here has been assigned to His followers (children).

Are all people on earth children of light?

God's word states clearly that all people are loved by our heavenly Father, there is no one whom He does not love. But our sinful nature separates us from God's presence, ie. we naturally live in darkness (Eph. 5:8 – once you were darkness...). You can compare it to a torch that, instead of being fitted with batteries, is wrapped in a filthy rag. It is not operational as there is no light source and will not spread any light until both the filthy rag is removed and batteries are inserted. So it is with us. In order to function as lights, Jesus, who is the source of Light, needs to enter our hearts and save us from our sins (remove the dirty rags), thereby making us His children with the promise of eternal life and sealing His Light within us. This happens as soon as we ask Him to forgive our sins and invite Him to be Lord of our lives. (1 John 1:9). From that moment on we are children of light.

Jesus promises in John 8:12 that His followers will never walk in darkness, which is a reference to the assurance of salvation we enjoy. In addition, provided we remain followers of the Light, we will never live in a state of continually sinning (1 John 1:5–7). Rather, we repent of our sin in order to stay close to the Light of the world. In these ways we will reflect the Light of Life. Just as the moon has no light of its own, reflecting the light of the sun, so are believers to reflect the Light of Christ so that all can see Him in us. The Light is evident to others by the way we live our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.

All of scripture points to the message of Christmas, namely, that Jesus came as the Light of the world to lead us out of darkness into His Light. As His followers, we can joyfully live our lives resting in the knowledge that God promised to turn our darkness into light (2 Samuel 22:29) and that those who love Him are like the sun when it rises in its strength. (Judges 5:31b).

Keep shining. Happy Christmas! 

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