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Life

Christmas Lights, Keeping Shining On

Whether you are a Christian or not, in some way or another, you are waiting for some kind of advent–an arrival of something in your life to give you light and hope. Deep down, there is a sense of guilt, shame, inadequacy, and incompleteness in all of us. To solve these problems, we run to money, success, sex, power, control, friendships, acclaim, morality, technology, alcohol, food, exercise or a thousand other things. All of those things are good things. But when they become ultimate things, they will only leave you in the darkness.

The world is dark. We are dark. And nothing in a dark world (including us) can bring us the light we long to see. We need something from the outside.

You get a picture of this longing for light and hope at Christmas in the Coldplay song “Christmas Lights.” It exposes the darkness that lives in us: Got all kinds of poison in, of poison in my blood.

It illustrates the inherent desire in human beings for hope, for light: I am up here holding on to all those chandeliers of hope.

It lays us bare, and reveals that the pursuit of hope in created things—in this case a romantic relationship—will always leave us unsatisfied: And like some drunken Elvis singing, I go singing out of tune, singing how I’ve always loved you, darling, and I always will.

It beckons us look to Christmas for what it is, a day of light and hope: Oh Christmas lights light up the street, light up the fireworks in me, may all your troubles soon be gone, those Christmas lights keep shining on.

God knows we have this need and does not leave us alone in meeting it. But he did not provide a circumstance or event or a system or information. He did not provide something within creation. Instead, he provided a Person who came from the outside, not only to give light, but to be light.

This person is Jesus, and whoever trusts him will not walk in darkness but have the light of life. It’s during this time of Advent we are reminded that we, like ancient Israel, are waiting, too. We wait for Jesus to come back again to finally take all our troubles away. Coldplay’s “Christmas Lights,” whether it knows it or not, is a desperate cry for reconciliation with the Redeemer, who is the Light of Christmas.

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Life

The Need for Christmas Light

This past Sunday was the beginning of Advent, the season in the church calendar that leads up to Christmas day. Advent (from the Latin word adventus meaning “arrival” or “coming”) is a time of anticipation. But it’s not anticipating for gifts or parties or egg nog. It’s a season of longing for hope—true hope in the midst of a dark world. Advent is an invitation to face our works of darkness and see the light of Jesus our Redeemer.

Whether you are a Christian or not, whether you observe Advent or not, you long for light. Deep down, you know there is darkness within. You have a sense of shame, inadequacy, and incompleteness. You know this–whether you consciously realize it or admit it—because you run to things for light, for hope. You run to money, success, sex, power, control, friendships, acclaim, morality, technology, alcohol, food, exercise or a thousand other things. All of those things are good things. But when they become ultimate things–things you look to for light and hope, they will only leave you in the darkness.

Do you want hope? Do you want light—this Christmas and beyond? There’s no amount of money or gifts or fame or sex or romance that can take away the darkness in you and all around you. You need something beyond created things. You need something outside of yourself. You need an Advent—an arrival of something, Someone, who will bring hope beyond your wildest dreams.

God’s answer for this longing—your longing—is his Son, the light-giving Redeemer, Jesus of Nazareth. In the words of Linus, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” God did not provide a circumstance or event or a system or information. He provided a Person who did not simply give light, but is light. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

You get a picture of this longing for the hope–the light–of Christmas in the Coldplay song “Christmas Lights.” It’s not a song about Jesus, of course. But it exposes the darkness that lives in us: “Got all kinds of poison in, of poison in my blood.” It illustrates the inherent desire in human beings for hope, for light: “I am up here holding on to all those chandeliers of hope.” It lays us bare, and reveals that the pursuit of hope in anything but Jesus—in this case a romantic relationship—will always leave us unsatisfied: “And like some drunken Elvis singing, I go singing out of tune, singing how I’ve always loved you, darling, and I always will.” It beckons us look to Christmas for what it is, a day of light and hope: “Oh Christmas lights light up the street, light up the fireworks in me, may all your troubles soon be gone, those Christmas lights keep shining on.”

When Jesus came, he came to give hope and light to all who trust in him and turn from trusting in themselves and other things. He will come back again in brilliant light and glory and on that day, all our troubles will be gone. It’s during this time of Advent we are reminded that we, like Israel, live in a time of anticipation. We don’t wait for our Redeemer’s first coming. We wait—long, yearn, groan—for his second coming. Coldplay’s “Christmas Lights” is a longing for something deeper than a reconciled romance with Christmas “lights” as the object of faith. Whether Chris Martin realizes it or would admit it, It’s a desperate cry for reconciliation with the Redeemer, who is the Light of Christmas.

Here’s the music video of “Christmas Lights”:

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Life

Tuesday Tunes

Civil Twilight is a band I’ve gotten into lately.  Their hit song is “Letters From the Sky.”  They aren’t a “Christian band,” but this song could be about Jesus’ second coming.  It’s either that or about a long, lost girlfriend.

If you need help, read the lyrics.

Oh, and they are also from the most beautiful city I have ever seen.

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Life

If your eternity was based on your iTunes, where would you go?

The music genre labeled “Christian” has traditionally been plagued with fluffy, cliche lyrics and repetitive, acoustic guitar chords.  A lot of it is bad.   But some of it is good.  There are talented “Christian” bands that don’t sing about Jesus in every song (or any).   There are talented “Christian” artists that nearly always sing about Jesus.  For everyone one of these bands or artists, there are probably two or three that I don’t care for.

It’s odd how much Christians can debate on divide on music — not just inside a church on Sunday.  Some Christians refuse to listen to “secular” music.  They think that if there’s a hint of guitar, it’s of the devil.  Others have swung the pendulum to the other end, boycotting anything labeled “Christian.”   They think Bono should become the 13th apostle.

Where am I on this spectrum?  I like Christian music.  I also like “secular” music.  But here’s the thing: there is not one thing on this planet that is secular.  Every song is a worship song.  Every film is a worship film.  Every novel, picture, poem, or anything else we create or do, is a act of worship.  The question is not whether or not you worship, but what is the object of your worship.

Most things are not inherently evil.  Remember that 1 Timothy 4:4 says, “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.”  We must be discerning about what can be redeemed and what must be rejected.  Some things, like drugs or strip clubs or pornography are evil and cannot be redeemed. However, if a Christian musician doesn’t sing a love song to Jesus should it be rejected? Just because a band like Coldplay isn’t “Christian” should we reject them?  I don’t think so.

My dad markets electrical products.  When he creates brochures, he doesn’t print Jesus’ face on the cover or type “For the Glory of God!” on the back.  Why does music have a different standard?  Whatever you do, do for the glory of God.  And that looks different for every Christian.  By the way, the title of this post is meant to be in jest.  Of course what music you listen to doesn’t determine your eternity — but some people (both Christians and non-Christians) might imply it.

After all this talk about music, I want to know you listen to.  Leave a comment with your top five most played songs, as well as the last five songs you played.  Here’s mine:

Top 5

  1. Hoppípolla- Sigur Rós
  2. The Haunting – Anberlin
  3. Life in Technicolor – Coldplay
  4. Till Kingdom Come – Coldplay
  5. Inevitable – Anberlin

Last 5

  1. The Man Comes Around – Johnny Cash
  2. Letters from the Sky – Civil Twilight
  3. 18 Bullet Holes – Waterdeep
  4. Cemeteries Of London – Coldplay
  5. Ancient Man – Burlap to Cashmere