Light it Up
Text: John 1:1-14
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
We love the light. We turn on lights everywhere, at times even when they’re not needed, just to have light. It makes us feel secure. Imagine times when the light didn’t come from the flip of a switch, but rather needed to be produced by flame. We still love this kind of light, even though it’s a little less convenient. The flicker of a candle as we witnessed last night during the singing of Silent Night. The roar of a campfire to light up the night at the campsite. When the seasons change and there’s less natural light to be had, the lack of light can affect our mood. When the power goes out and we don’t know when it might be restored, as sense of doom and dread can begin to set in. Because we love the light and don’t want it to be gone.
But the odd thing is, that in our human nature, we also love the darkness. What light does is it makes all things visible. And sometimes we don’t want all things to be visible. We don’t want our lives laid bare for all to see. It’s why we associate sin and evil with the cover of darkness. And it was the state of the world until God sent His Son to be the light that would overcome all darkness. On Christmas morning, as we celebrate the coming of the Savior, we welcome the light into the world. And we pray that God would continue to overcome the darkness that creeps into our lives.
Since the fall in Eden, the world has been in darkness. Sin casts a dark shadow on the whole world that we on our own can’t avoid being caught up in. We heard last night the words of Isaiah that paint the picture for us. “The people walked in darkness… They dwelt in a land of deep darkness.” Even today, this reality of darkness is painted in every news report we hear and embodied in our interactions with people. There is a darkness in a world that has largely turned from God. All generations walk in the shadow of sin which could easily lead to lives of darkness, and hopelessness, and despair.
But into this dark scene, God has entered. Isaiah prophesied, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” Isaiah even identifies the cause and the source of this light when He says, “For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Two thousand years ago, God sent a light to shine from the window of a stable in Bethlehem. That light appeared in the birth of a baby. God, who is light and life, was revealed in the flesh as an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes. On that night a brilliant light appeared within the darkness of a broken world in the form of an infant. And it’s amazing how this appearance has transformed the scene from one of desperation and sorrow to one of hope and joy.
This is the light that John writes of when he says in our Gospel for this morning, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
That light came and was laid in the manger, but He didn’t remain in the manger. He grew and went about His Father’s business. And as He did, the darkness would continually try to overcome the light. Herod would try to kil the baby boy. The powers of darkness would seek His execution, and ultimately carry it out. On Good Friday, it appeared that the darkness had prevailed. But the light remained and overcame as the Light of Life triumphed over darkness and death forever on Easter morning.
The darkness has been defeated and no longer has any power over the light, and yet today there are many who reject the light, preferring to walk in darkness. This is, as I said, our human nature. Our desire not to be exposed by the light. John says it perfectly when he writes, “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” There are some who would rather live in the shadow of their sinfulness than in the light of God’s salvation. There are some who miss the joy of God’s loving presence because they’re distracted by the appeals of this world. Many see the lights of this world, the glitter and the gifts, the decorations and the displays, and think that this is the Light. And so, they miss the Light that shines from the manger.
Thanks be to God that He has revealed to us the true source of light and allows us to welcome Him. We welcome the Christ Child who comes to deliver us from sin. We embrace the promise of John’s Gospel which says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” We see the light in the face of the baby Jesus. And that light transforms our lives.
Despite all the attempts of the darkness to overcome the light, the light continues to grow and spread throughout our darkened world. That light who first appeared in the manger with the eternal glow of God’s love, continues to shape our lives. The light advances as God’s people heed His call to share it with the world. We who receive the light bear it to others.
That was the symbolism in last night’s candlelight service. One flame from the Christ candle was handed to worshippers who held small candles in their hands. The flame was passed from one person to another until the entire sanctuary was filled with lightThat light shared multiplies to bring brilliance to all. Which shows the privilege that who behold the light of Christ’s birth have in bearing this light to the darkened world.
In one of his Christmas day sermons, Martin Luther reminded his congregation and us how we should view Christmas: “Therefore see to it that you do not find pleasure in the Gospel only as a history, for that is only transient; neither regard it only as example, for it is of no value without faith.” In the darkness of this cold world, we welcome the light which kindles that faith. Through His work in this world, we are constantly reminded that the birth of the baby in Bethlehem was not just a piece of history to be forgotten, but rather our great pleasure to receive and share. In Christ’s coming, His light gives us the joy and the cheer of His love for His people. Love the Light. Despise the darkness. And remember always that “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.