BIBLE READINGS: Isaiah 9: 2-7 John 1: 1-14
bids us shine
With a pure, clear light,
Like a little candle
Burning in the night.
In this world of darkness
So let us shine
You in your small corner,
And I in mine.
The beginning of John's Gospel has some of the most beautiful words of the entire Bible. It tells the story of Jesus in a unique way. While Matthew and Luke tell the story of Jesus’ humble beginnings, and Mark’s gospel doesn’t even reflect on Jesus’ origins, John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus is the Eternal Logos or Word who was with God and Part of God before the Creation of the world.
It is from John that we learn that this man who travelled around the lakes and mountains and cities of Palestine 2000 years ago was no ordinary man, but was the “Word made Flesh.” It claims that everything was created through the Word, and that all creation was known by him and all creation has a connection to him. God creates by speaking, and the Word is God.
We also learn that this creative Word is Light—as Isaiah says, the “people who have walked in the darkness have seen a great light” Isaiah goes on to talk about a child who will one day be born who will bear this light, and John identifies this light as the person whose birth we celebrate today.
John doesn’t tell the story of something that happened a long time ago rather he writes about a light that shines in darkness. The darkness of time or place does not overcome the light that continues to shine.
This is the amazing thing about the Gospel. WE have walked in the darkness. We come from all walks of life. Some of us are old, some of us are young, some of us have lived in this place all our lives, some of us are transplants from another place, some of us are rich, some of us are poor, some of us have loved, some of us have loved and lost. Here’s what we all have in common—we have all walked in the darkness.
But the good news is this, we have seen a great light, and that Light comes to us. Graciously, the Light has come toward us and continues to come toward us. As long as we reject this light in our presence, we will continue to walk in darkness. As long as we refuse to forgive and love and share and make peace, we will live in darkness. Why? Because God loves us so much that God gave us freedom. The light is not invasive. It is persuasive, like a friend holding a candle toward you for you to light your candle on.
And if we do light our candle with the Light of God, IF we allow our soul to be ignited with the awesome power of love and forgiveness and peace and sharing, our faces will shine in the presence of the Jesus our Saviour. We will finally see ourselves as Children of God. This is the message that the Living Word would have us understand. After creation was spoken into being through the creative power of the Word in Genesis 1, God exclaims, “It is good!” We are part of this creation that God calls good.
Yet while we were children of God from the very beginning, we walk in darkness and we look to other sources for comfort than God. We make ourselves “Children of Exclusiveness” or “Children of Possessions” or “Children of Beauty”. Jesus says later in John’s gospel that “this is the judgement of the world, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light.” Why do we love the darkness rather than the light?
Because the light comes to earth in a feeding trough…The Light takes a cross on his back and asks us to as well. The Light asks us to change our direction in life. We fill our lives with other things, and we think we are full until the little cracks appear in our carefully managed lives. God’s light continues to shine in our direction though, and it continues to come to us. All we have to do is dip our candle toward the one being offered to us. All we must do is dip our heads down and ask for forgiveness. All we must do is forgive others as God forgives us.
When we take on the light, our burdens are taken on by that little child laying in a manger. He is willing and able to carry our load. As things become lighter in our lives, we may even find ourselves sharing the light with others. We may turn to the person next to us and offer the Light of Christ to them.
In so doing, the brightness grows! God’s Kingdom is made visible on earth, and more faces glow with the good news of the Word and Light. The Light becomes brighter through our sharing, and more people in the shadows are able to see it. But for us to share the Light and be the Living Christ, we must walk toward the shadows. This is what Christ exhibited in a life in which he was reprimanded by the “holy men” for going into the houses of tax collectors and prostitutes.
This birth that we celebrate today is not just a birth in a stable 2000 years ago, it is a birth waiting to happen. Every moment holds the potential for this birth because this birth is the birth of the Light in the world of darkness. The darkness cannot overcome it, and as long as we hold the candle of our faith in front of us, guiding us, we cannot be overcome. Even in dying, the martyrs of our faith were able to shed light on the darkness.
John’s Gospel does not promise us that there will be no darkness in the world. We all know too well that sin exists in the world. The promise is that if we follow Jesus, if we trust in him and live our lives as he has called us to live them we will not have to walk in that darkness any more. Darkness is the absence of light. When Light overcomes darkness, it does not beat it up or kill it, it fills it, changing it so completely that it is a new thing entirely. The light of Jesus which shines God’s love into our lives and into the world converts fear into trust, into courage, into the will to seek true life. If we trust God completely, as Jesus did we will never have to live in fear. The Light of God wants to light up your life because God wants you to know who you really are—a shining faced Child of God! Amen
Acknowledgement: Pastor Robert Lyons