For retailers, Christmas is already over. For the Church – for those who celebrate Christmas, not as the day to get stuff, but as the day to celebrate the birth of the Son of God – Christmas is just getting started. Last night, we began the 12 day celebration by hearing St. Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus. We all know that story. We’ve heard it so many times. You can probably recite it from memory. When you were a child, you may have played a part in enacting that story for a Christmas pageant or musical. I know I did. That story from Luke Chapter 2 is an account of the birth of Jesus at our level – human level - here on earth. But today, Christmas Day, we didn’t hear that story. Our Gospel Lesson was from St. John’s account – the prologue – the overture if you will – to the story of Jesus. Instead of St. Luke’s view of the birth of Jesus from ground level, John takes us way up – nearly to heaven – to give us the big, cosmic picture of what is going on here with the incarnation of the Son of God. John gives us the big picture of Christ – the Logos –the Word of God becoming flesh and blood and coming into the world – the light coming into the world.
Some of you already know that Sheri, the girls, and I enjoy going camping - tent camping. Now, a really important thing you need to remember when camping is this: be ready for sunset. It gets dark out there, fast. We light up our campsite with lanterns and, yes, we string Christmas tree lights up to help. But go just a few feet beyond, and you’re in darkness. And you better have your flashlight with you. There’s a lot of things that go bump in the night out there in the wilderness. Light is important. It’s even more than that. Light is life. Without light, there would be no life here on earth. No wonder light was the first on the list of our Creator’s creations. Light provides the energy for all life. Perhaps that’s why John calls the Logos, the Word...the light. He is the light coming into the darkness.
Darkness. When John uses the word “darkness” in his gospel account, he’s talking about the absence of light – the absence of God. Not that God has separated Himself from the world. No, the world has separated itself from God. A world that has separated itself and is opposed to God’s will. A world where there’s a lack of love for others. And because we are sinners. That darkness is present within us. We oppose God’s will. We fail to trust in Him. We love ourselves more than others. But when light shines in the darkness, all that was hidden is now revealed. John writes, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” The Christ s that true light. The truth has a way of cutting through the darkness and shedding light on that which isn’t true. The truth of Jesus, the truth of His Word, cuts into our darkness and reveals everything – warts and all – all the things that go bump in our self-created night. The Word of God reveals everything – lights it up for all to see – including ourselves.
But that same light is creative…re-creative. Again, John writes, “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 same Word of God that reveals everything, recreates. And this is the reason the light, Jesus Christ, came into the world. To be creative – to create children of God and their life of faith. Jesus Christ became flesh in order to show His glory to the world – to die and to rise again to new life. The Word became flesh so that you would be born, not of flesh, nor of the will of flesh or the will of man, but by God. His Word of forgiveness and mercy is life – new life – making a new creation of you who were once entirely in darkness. That’s the reason for Christmas. That’s the reason why this baby, born of a virgin, and lying in a manger is here. He is the light in our darkness, lighting the way. And the darkness will not overcome it. And that light, Jesus Christ, is now life – your life. What a Christmas gift!
The Word – the light – life – became flesh and dwelt among us. It’s a mystery how that happened – that the Son of God, the Word of God would take on flesh and dwell among us. But because of God’s great love for us He had to – in order that we might see His glory, and believe in Him. It’s truly a mystery – a mystery that we get to take a peek into these mysteries through John’s prologue. The hymn asks the question, “What Child is This?” And many would ask the same question of Jesus: “Who are you?” Answer: this Word, this light coming into our world of darkness, this Word made flesh is the Christ, the Son of the living God. And not just 2000 years ago. But today. Today, here, in this place, among us, in you. This same light coming into the world - the same holy one of God in whose presence seraphim and cherubim must veil their faces and dare not look - this light of light reveals Himself to you. The Light, Word became flesh is with us, today, present in a real, physical way as He has promised. “This is my body, given for you. This is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” The light coming into the darkness of you as you eat and drink of the body and blood of Christ in his holy Supper – today. On this day, we call it “The Christ-Mass.” The Word becoming flesh and dwelling within you. The light of Christ within you. Life, new life, eternal life within you. That is your God’s gracious and merciful gift to you today, this Christmas Day.
It’s not hermeneutically kosher to jump Gospels in the middle of the story, but I’m going to anyway. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us, “You are the light of the world.” That’s right - you are now the light of the world. Not because of what you have done, but because of the light and life Christ has given you. What does He tell you? “Don’t hide it. Let your light shine before others.” This child of whom we ask, “What child is this?” This Child, the Christ, the Son of God is now light in you. So like a flashlight stabbing it’s light out into the darkness of the wilderness, let that light shine. Not for your glory. For His. Because that light is the Christ. And that light is life – not just for you, but for so many others still dwelling in darkness.
On this Christmas Day, let them see the great light! Let them see Jesus.
A most blessed and merry Christmas to each of you. Amen