Theme: In Jesus, we see the light
Let us pray.
Most holy, Lord God, today we give you thanks for the gift of your son, through him we are brought into a new relationship with you and through him and the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to bring about your kingdom, we pray through the baby who changed the world, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Jim Taylor writes: “A woman in our congregation is putting together a multimedia presentation – art, dance, photography – to illustrate the re-telling of Luke’s nativity story. She challenged me to come up with a visual for the moment of Jesus’ birth.
“I thought about that picture of a tiny hand reaching out of the womb during a Caesarian section and gripping the surgeon’s gloved finger. I thought about pictures from NASA, taken by the Hubble telescope in space, showing galaxies bursting, supernova exploding, the curtains of the universe torn asunder...
“Those images would fit with John’s gospel, which raises the birth of Christ from a human to a cosmic event. But as I thought about it, I realized that perspective depends on hindsight. It’s only as we look back that we see Bethlehem’s cosmic implications. At the time, it was a mother’s scream of pain, a baby’s wail of distress at this new and unfamiliar environment. It was a single candle burning inside a darkened stable.
“I remember going deep into a potash mine in Saskatchewan, once. A kilometer underground, our guide turned out all the lights. I have never felt such darkness. My eyes tried to get used to it, and couldn’t. Then the guide flicked a cigarette lighter. And that tiny flame was enough to illuminate the entire underground cavern. We breathed a sigh of relief. We could see again.
“I think that’s my image to accompany the birth of the Messiah. To quote John’s gospel again, ‘the light shines in the darkness...’ And we can see.”
That’s what happened in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. A light broke into the darkness of a harsh, repressive world. A world bathed in sin was given the source of redemption and grace. God spoke once again.
Last night we wondered at the divine birth of a child. Today we ponder the theological meaning of that birth. For that is what John is about. John makes us scratch our heads. We stumble over words trying to explain the incarnation. John didn’t even try. John, instead, used poetry. Poetry can explain that for which we cannot explain.
In the beginning was the Word. John purposely begins his gospel to sound just like the beginning of Genesis. When time began, there was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was God. When time began, the Word existed as God.
The Greek word we translate as “word” is logos. Logos has many meanings depending which philosophical school one is member of. Logos can mean: an instrument of creation, a means of self-expression, divine wisdom, or the pre-existent Christ. “It denotes that God is a speaking, revealing, and communicating God.” John is weaving together Greek philosophy and Jewish wisdom writings.
This god-given life, the Word, the Logos, Immanuel, Yeshua, Jesus of Nazareth, was the light of everyone. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness could not put it out. John’s reference to the light also harkens us back to the first creation story in Genesis. God said, the Word said, “Let there be light; and there was light. . . . And God separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:3-4) Remember this is before the sun is created. Night and day are created, which also created time, the 24 hour day.
But more importantly, the darkness that was before anything is split. It is divided. Darkness will not prevail over creation. The New Testament makes allusion to light as a metaphor for the proclamation of salvation. John is proclaiming the light that is the salvation for the world.
God sent a man named John, a different John, John the Baptist. He came to testify about the one who is the light so that everyone through the Light will believe. John was not the Light – only a messenger for the light. The true light that shines on us all was coming into the world.
“Part of the evidence of the new age having come in Christ is the presence of light. This positive imagery is especially important in John, where its eschatological meanings are similar to those found in the Qumran documents. Just as Jesus is the “true light” (John 1:9), the “light of the world” (8:12; 9:5; 12:46; cf. 1 John 1:5–7), so also are believers in him “sons of light” (John 12:36; also Luke 16:8; 1 Thess. 5:5; cf. Eph 5:8, “children of light”; 1QS 1:9; 1QM passim)”.
Ironically, the creator, the Word, came into the world and the people did not recognize him by whom they who owe their very lives. He went to the people who had a special relationship to God, but they did not want him. We, who promise to seek Christ in all persons, fail to see Christ.
Jesus’ incarnation draws us into relationship with God. We saw his glory with our own eyes – a glory that can only be like Father, like Son. It is he who is full of grace and truth. Jesus came into the world to reconcile the creation that came through him.
We were always meant to be God’s children. We just forgot. Even after so many years when Jesus dwelt among us, we still forget. Even so, Jesus never gives up on us. Jesus always brings us reconciliation, forgiveness, and salvation. Jesus’ gift to us on the first Christmas is that we may now have the same relationship with God as Jesus enjoys.
We are children of God not because we will have all our religious questions answered, but so that we become related to God. We are given the opportunity to know God as Jesus knows God. The story of God’s self-revelation and God’s self-giving love for humanity is still being written.
We now pray: Gracious God and giver of all good gifts, we give you thanks for the gifts of wonder and excitement as we celebrate the birth of your son, may he always inspire us to do your will and work in the world, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Text: John 1:1-14 (NRSV)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life,a and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.b
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own,c and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,d full of grace and truth.