Saturday, December 24, 2016

Jesus, the Light of the World - John 1: 1-14

If any of the Gospel writers could write about Christmas, it was John. John became the protector of Mary, and spent many days with her. Yet John leaves out the story of Christ’s birth. He was more interested in why Jesus came than when or how. In a sense, though, John wrote more eloquently of Christmas by calling Him the Word of God, and Light of the world. Light is a powerful metaphor for Jesus.

Today, we assume that there will always be light with our electric light bulbs. But in John’s day, light only came from three sources—sun, moon and fire. It’s obviously firelight, not moonlight that John had in mind. “The light shined in the darkness, and the darkness could not extinguish it.” He compares Jesus to firelight shining in the darkness of sin.

What does Jesus share with firelight? 

1.  Light banishes darkness just by showing up.The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness cannot overcome it” Darkness cannot overcome the light, because darkness is the absence of light. The minute light shows up, darkness is gone. 

Imagine being in a cave, deep under the earth.  The darkness is so complete that you can see nothing. You cannot move because of it. But even with the smallest light your eyes can adjust to it. You can begin to move around even by the light of a tiny LED bulb or a single candle. 

Once we see Jesus even dimly, we  move from darkness to light. One candle can light a whole room. We don’t have to be scholars to have knowledge of God. All we have to do is come to Jesus, and see His light. He will reveal all things to us. 

3.  Light warms us. In John’s day, there was no light without warmth. Jesus did not do something we just see, but something we feel as well. He is like sunshine on our faces. 

The story of Christmas is a story of warm emotions. Shepherds were terrified, then rejoiced. Mary and Joseph were happy to have a baby. The Wise Men rejoiced to find Him. Hannah in the temple and old Simeon rejoiced to see the baby in the temple. It’s supposed to be heart-warming. Light warms our hearts.

Sometimes we can’t feel the warmth of our faith. That’s true of fire as well. We can see fire farther away than we can feel it. But as we draw closer to Him, we can eventually feel the warmth.  Not feeling Jesus doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with us, any more than not feeling a fireplace means that there is no fire. But as we draw close to Him, He warms our hearts and gives us joy.

There is a difference between drawing close to the church and drawing close to Christ. Many people don’t feel the warmth of Christ, because they are drawing close to His reflection, not His person. We see Jesus in the church and in others. They can reflect the light of Christ, but the warmth of Christ, the Source of our joy comes from meeting Him. Don’t just seek Christ’s reflection. Seek His Person. His presence can comfort us in our coldest and saddest moments.

3. Light pulls us together.  In ancient homes, the hearth or campfire was the center of every group. As people surrounded the light, they drew closer to each other. In the celebration of Christmas, we are drawn together. Christmas is a model of the peace that is to come as we gather around the throne of Heaven.

Tonight we celebrate the Lord’s Feast. We call it by many names—Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, Mass. But the name we prefer in our tradition is the word communion. Communion means literally “brought together.”  When we are united with Christ we are united to each other. We take the bread together to symbolize that unity. 

Charles Colson, in his biography Born Again wrote about his life after going to prison as a Watergate conspirator. He was one of Nixon’s Republican aides who once said that he would be willing to run over his own grandmother to get Nixon reelected. He found Christ while in prison. After his release, he lived in a half-way house with several other notorious prisoners, who had also become Christians. They included a liberal democratic senator, a leader of the Black Panther Party, and a former Grand Dragon of the KKK. There could not have been a more diverse group, unless you count Christ’s disciples, who included fishermen and slaves,  tax collectors and tethey were brought together in Christ. When Jesus came into the world, He became the common ground for all the world to meet.

This is important in our country today, where there is so much division. Christ brings us together when politics, race, and culture divide us. Satan uses political and cultural divisions to divide the world. The light of Christ unites us around the same fire.

4.  Fire is contagious. How could the birth of one baby in Bethlehem warm the entire world? One by one, people who were touched by Christ’s light glow themselves.  

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The Word literally became flesh by being born as Jesus. The word literally becomes flesh also every day through being born again in the lives of believers by the Holy Spirit. When people get close to Jesus  they catch fire. To everyone who believes on his name,  has the power to become like Him. We glow with the same fire He had.

The shepherds came to the manger terrified, but left carrying the joyful light. The Wise Men came mystified but went away bearing witness. It was not an intentional thing, but a byproduct of the fire of Christ burning in them.

Tonight, we enjoy the light of Christ.  Tomorrow, we will carry the light of Christ. We are the Light-bearers, taking his Joy and peace to all people. Let us bear that light into every area of our lives into all places where darkness still reigns, so that the promise of the Scripture may be fulfilled.

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