“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
“I believe in the Light that has come and is coming.”
This morning we have arrived at the last stop before the end of our Advent journey…This is the fourth and final Sunday of the Advent season…Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and we will celebrate two worship services that involve telling the story of Jesus’ birth…Today our anticipation reaches its peak…This is our last chance to pause and reflect on what is really happening here before everything gets swallowed up in Christmas wrapping and delicious holiday food.
The question is: what is really happening here at the beginning of John’s Gospel? John seems to be on a completely different wave-length than the other gospel writers…There is no birth narrative…There is no mention of stars, angels, shepherds – not even Jesus’ mother…And yet, this beautiful poetry touches us in a profound way and truly captures the essence of the Christmas story. John is talking about creation…Jesus has been directly involved with creation since the beginning…What happens now is that God’s eternal Word – Jesus – comes to earth and takes on human flesh…Do you get that? The very Word of God – the same Word that spoke creation into being – literally assumes our human form and lives among us. John’s gospel moves this story from simply one about a baby’s birth to the glory of the Incarnation of Christ.
Why would God do this? Because the world God created has fallen into darkness and desperately needs light! God is fully prepared to come into this darkness and fight – light against darkness; day against night; love against hate…And the promise is: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” The darkness would not win – then OR now!
As we get closer to being able to open all those presents under the tree, John challenges us to see what the real gift of Christmas is…This “new creation” that John wants us to witness isn’t just about Jesus, it’s about us. Maybe that’s why John sets his Christmas story in such an unusual manner…Maybe what John is trying to tell us is that Christmas is not really Jesus’ birthday at all…it is ours. It is the day we celebrate our birth as newly created children of God…It is that moment in time when God came to us “full of grace and truth…” “to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God…” Children born, not of blood – we will not be subject to the frailties of our human existence forever…or of the will of the flesh – we are more than our carnal desires…or out of the will of humans – we will not always be victims of the will and whims of others…Instead, we are children of God…restored to God’s original intention for Creation. The miracle of the Nativity story is that it didn’t just happen in a manger long ago in the little town of Bethlehem…This is a story that continues to happen today – now! (David Lose, Luther Seminary)
John doesn’t give us the traditional Christmas Story we are accustomed to hearing in December…He leaves out the details of shepherds and angels and wise men…John goes right to the heart of the story – the Incarnation of God…the Word made Flesh. John focuses our attention on the real gift of Christmas – the new identity we receive as newly created children of God…This gift is a new opportunity for us and for the whole world to become the new creation God wants us to be…Maybe Christmas isn’t all about the gifts we give each other; maybe it’s about the gift God gave to us…“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
Throughout this Advent season we have built on the theme of a poem written in darkness…We have come to understand that:
even when the sun is hidden from sight,
even when love feels remote,
even when we’re not sure of God’s presence…
we sense that the light is coming,
This Light is significant because it was in the world before Creation…It came into the world through God’s intervention…It lived among us in the person of Jesus…This Light has come, is coming, and will come again and again…Jesus really IS the gift that keeps on giving!
When we are honest with ourselves and look at the world in which we live, we find many things that exist in the shadows…Millions of people die of hunger every year…Thousands of children die because they have no access to clean water…Greed, revenge, and hate claim the lives of untold numbers of men, women, and children around the world every day…The sun doesn’t seem to be shining on them. This year alone, school shootings have claimed the lives of 41 innocent victims in four states…Since June of 2012, 21 people have been killed and 67 injured in events classified as “domestic terrorism” in the U.S. The victims and their families may see love as being far away from them. Whenever someone we know suffers in some tragedy, natural disaster, or devastating disease, we may wonder where God is in the middle of it. “I believe in the Light that has come and is coming.” John’s gospel today reminds us that God’s Light shines into our darkness; God’s love is near and the holy is born yet again in the midst of the pain of life. There is hope…There is love…There is light…In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…Amen