Editor's note: this piece was coauthored by Hagelin's daughter, Kristin Carey.
This time of year, lights strung up around our homes proclaim a warm welcome, usher us into the firelight, the flickering candlelight, the colorful glow of family trees. The lights elicit an exciting sense of hope; they help ready us for the coming holiday.
We are naturally drawn to light. We adore it. We love watching the sun stretch its arms wide across the cold ground, helping our minds make sense of an otherwise dark world.
“As the light approaches, the earth takes shape like clay pressed beneath a seal.” (Job 38:14).
We love seeing stars streak hot across the night sky, seeing city lights shine thousands of feet below our window seats on passenger planes. We even love the simple flashlights on our phones when they help us find our way.
So what did Jesus mean when He said, “God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light." (John 3:19)? No one desires to feel vulnerable, helpless or blind. No waking person could really love darkness—unless they couldn’t make sense of the light.
A camera lens has no affect on the light that exists within a room, but it does affect the way that light is perceived. If a lens is damaged or out of focus, the light in the photograph can appear dull, confusing, unattractive or offensively glaring. Then, of course, even darkness appears more pleasant.
Jesus portrayed our eyes—those windows into our souls—in the same way we understand the camera lens. He said, “When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness.” (Luke 11:34). When we don’t see light as it exists in reality, we inevitably end up living in darkness; often without knowing anything better exists.
Jesus continued, “Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness. If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.” (Luke 11:35-36).
2 Corinthians 11:14 warns us that "...even Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light."
So how do we see true light when our lenses are so easily damaged and knocked out of focus?
The Hope: Become a Child of the Light
George Eastman, the man who invented the Kodak camera, said, “Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.” A photographer who understands light knows which lens to use, which filter to use, and how to focus.
He ends up creating an image that resembles reality and communicates a distinct message about his subject. But before he understands light, he has to become a student of it, almost like a child taking note of the adults around him.
In the midst of His public ministry, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” To follow Jesus means to learn to know Him. And the best way to begin to know Him is to study His life and His teaching and the stories, poems and letters in the Bible, which point us to Him again and again. To learn to know him is to have the faith of a little child and simply choose to believe that His words are true.
A powerful Bible verse, John 12:36, says: "Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light."
We learn what light looks like getting to know Jesus. Only as we spend time with him and read his words can we can tell whether or not we are in focus, whether or not our lives are in line with His. And because we tend to continually lose focus, we need to continually yield to and work with Him as he cleans, refocuses and replaces our lenses. Eventually, we will come to resemble Light Himself, and our lives will communicate His character, and help others find their focus, too.
In the beginning, God’s Spirit hovered over the darkness of the newly formed earth. Then He spoke light into existence. And the same God who said, “Let there be light in the darkness” wants to speak those very same words into the darkest places of your life (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Chances are you know the story of the Christmas star: A group of wise men who understood ancient prophesy recognized a brilliant star as the sign that would lead them to their newly born king. “And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.” (Matthew 2:9-11).
But the miracle that is Christmas—the teenage virgin giving birth to the King of Kings in a dirty stable, angels announcing the news to startled shepherds, wise men following a star—it’s only the beginning. The story continues, growing in depth and drama as the once swaddled baby grows into the man who carried the cross.
We must find ourselves in the story—in the middle of the crowds listening to Jesus speak words that drip like water into our thirsty souls; in the fingers of the bleeding woman reaching for the hem of his robe, hoping to find healing; in the sincerity of the rich young ruler, asking how to find life everlasting; in the faith of the blind man who yearned for the light enough to let go of caution so that he might believe—and see.
Find yourself in His story this Christmas; step out on faith into His glorious Light, and as you follow Him, your life will begin to come into focus. And it will be brilliantly beautiful!