Stop. Look. Listen. — Week 3

Welcome to week three of Stop.Look.Listen. I’m so glad you’re joining me for this Advent series! Are you ready to press pause together for a few moments? This week’s post is also available as a YouTube video (with a special guest joining me!). Just press play below. Or scroll down for the transcript if you’d prefer to read as usual.

I hope you’ve enjoyed moments this week that have been merry and bright, but I hope you’ve also experienced some moments of solemn stillness. I invite you now to still your body, still your thoughts, and still your breathing as you read these words of Jesus — the “Amen”, the “faithful and true witness”, the “originator of God’s creation” as this chapter in Revelation describes Him. These are Jesus’ words to the angel of the church in Laodicea:

This is a painting you have probably seen before. It’s called The Light of the World and was painted by William Holman Hunt. There are a few versions of it, and this particular one was painted in 1851/1852 when Hunt would have been about twenty four or twenty five years old. Hunt himself once said of this painting, “I painted the picture with what I thought, unworthy though I was, to be divine command, and not simply a good subject.” I think this conviction of his is enough for us to resist the notion that there’s nothing new to see here…even if we’ve seen it a hundred times before. Take a moment to look at it attentively. Try to see it with new eyes. What do you notice?

The Light of the World by William Holman Hunt (1851-1852)

When I look at this painting, I am immediately struck by the oddity of the light being outside the door. Usually, when I think of opening my door in the dark of night, I envision ushering someone into the light and out of the cold and dark. But this painting shows the light seeking admittance and seems to imply that it’s darkness that sits behind the door — a door with no handle, not even a keyhole to let in the light. Jesus stands there offering to bring His lantern into the dark corners that lie beyond that obstinate door. 

The painting begs the question, what does lie beyond the door? From the context of the scripture we just read, we begin to understand that this gentle knock is a wake-up call. Behind that door lies apathy, self-sufficiency, and shame buried so deep that it’s willfully forgotten. This isn’t Jesus asking to come in and share a cozy little supper by the hearth. This picture is an alarm clock ringing, a rooster crowing, a match striking to open blind eyes and quicken lazy hearts. This is an invitation to get real with what lies in the dark corners of our hearts that we would rather abandon to blissful ignorance. 

Advent marks an anniversary of sorts for me. It was during this time, a number of years ago, that my life changed forever. Why, you ask? Because I opened that door. I chose truth and began a slow march toward freedom. And I can say in all sincerity that Jesus was right. Truth really does set you free. But I can also tell you that the setting free process is anything but fun. That lantern may look dim, but set it in the darkest corners of your heart, and its light is searing. As I peeled back layers of my life’s veneer, it inspired my husband to do the same, and we undertook this freedom walk together. But masks that have clung neatly for years at a time are painful to remove. Ripping them off leaves us feeling raw, exposed, and vulnerable. And if there’s one thing we need when we’re hurting like that, it’s hope.

Shortly after we began this journey together, a good friend of mine gifted me a wooden sign that simply said “HOPE”. It was Advent after all, and the month leading up to Christmas had hope teasing us from every angle. We gladly grabbed it every chance we got. When Christmas finally arrived, I wrote on my husband’s card, “May this be the worst Christmas we ever have!” I sincerely meant it. I couldn’t imagine living through another any worse. 

Yes, truth sets you free, and it is definitely worth it. A hundred thousand million times over worth it. But truth is not an easy thing to face. There’s a reason we sometimes call it “ugly.” Jesus (Truth Himself) described those comfortable, wealthy Laodiceans as wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. But I bet they looked nothing like that on the outside!

Christmas can be an especially tricky season to navigate for so many people. Behind those permasmiles a strange mixture of emotions can be swirling, agitated by memories and traditions, sights and sounds. Perhaps this Christmas has you face to face with someone’s ugly truth. Be the friend that offers hope. Be the safe place for someone who is ready to be real about what lies behind locked doors. 

Or maybe it’s you who hears Jesus knocking these days. Don’t shrink further back into the shadows. Opening that door and letting in the light of His truth will expose you, and it will hurt. But it’s the only option that actually holds any hope. His blazing gaze will not condemn. His goal is to heal you. It’s safe to listen to Jesus as He tells you the truth, because He is perfect love. And no matter how ugly, truth is safe to face when you are surrounded by a love that will never let go. 

I feel like a triumphant song is in order this week as we contemplate Jesus as the Light of the World…the light that shines in the darkness, the light that the darkness can never overcome! Today’s listen is not ancient. It’s not even old. It was released by a group called We the Kingdom in 2020. It’ll set your heart singing Hallelujah for all that Jesus has done! Take a listen and praise Jesus for how He has transformed your darkness…or whisper a prayer, inviting His light and love into the hurting corners that still need to be uncovered. 

I’ll be back next week for the fourth and final week of Stop.Look.Listen. Until then, I hope that we will look for opportunities to shine the light of Jesus. The Light of the World also calls His followers the light of the world. May our light shine brightly this week with the hope we have in Christ, pointing others straight to our Father in Heaven. 

Waiting with you,

Other posts in this series:


WEEK 1 — Stop.Look.Listen…for the Lamb of God

WEEK 2 — Stop.Look.Listen…for the Love that Restores

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