We’ve been talking a lot this year about the Prologue to John’s Gospel. In it we have this great imagery of the light of Christ coming to a darkened world. That’s one of the greatest images of Christmas.
We will make our own symbolism of that at the end of this service with our traditional candle lighting. And I think it’s always the most complete image when we have only the Christ candle lit before we start spreading that light. I know that’s not easy with all the different lights, and I’m sure the fire marshal would frown on our turning out the exit light. But let’s try!
That is such wonderful symbolism. Because remember, God didn’t make the world better, and then send Jesus! He sent Jesus into a world with that darkness. And he was and is the Light of that World! Jesus called himself that. (And of course, he also called us that, as well!)
John says this so well here in his prologue. “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!” “The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world…”
I love those words! John actually used words like that before. In his first letter, which most scholars believe was written before his Gospel, he wrote, “This is the message that we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God [Jesus] is light, and in him there is no darkness at all…” and “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.” Doesn’t that sound like John’s prologue?
And so Jesus is the true light that was coming into the world. And we seek to walk in the light. And we seek to have God’s light shine through us, like passing on the light of our candles to each other. For that light that came into the world so long ago, comes into the darkness of our lives, and we can see.
But as I also said before, our lives are like the world Jesus came into. We have darkness. Our lives are not all “fixed up” so that Jesus can come in. He comes into our darkness. In fact, Jesus didn’t come into our lives when we deserved it the most. He came into our lives when we needed it the most.
And so, we prepare our hearts to receive him. But that means being open. It doesn’t mean making ourselves righteous, or perfect first. As we sing in “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” it is “where meek souls will receive him still” that “the dear Christ enters in.” (A slightly redundant expression. But it rhymes better that way!)
Jesus comes into us as he came into the world, and he brings that light into our lives. And that brings us the hope we were talking about before. With that light, we are no longer just stumbling around in the dark. We can see where we’re going! And(!) we can know that the darkness is not complete. In fact, the darkness has not and cannot “overcome” that light!
And that light is so needed in our world! I would say again, and I actually heard someone say this on the news the other day, there are those for whom this season is not joyful. There are those for whom this season of peace and joy shows people more clearly that they lack those things! There is increased depression this time of year. There are many who see only the darkness, and the darkness seems complete.
Were you ever in a dark place and the darkness itself seemed to weigh heavily on you? It seems to be closing in on you? Some people feel that in their lives this time of year. It’s like the darkness is clinging to them!
Maybe you’ve been struggling with that. Maybe you feel like you’ve been stumbling in the dark. Maybe you need to know once again that the true light has come into the world, and the darkness has never conquered it!
Those are not just great words. And they are great words! Some have called the prologue to John’s Gospel some of the greatest words ever written. But it’s more than that. Those words tell us of the light in our lives. They tell us that light is there. We just have to let it shine. Jesus said “nobody lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket.” Well, actually they do. That was the point Jesus was making! We need to let his light shine, and not just so that we see it but so that others see it – just like we pass the candle flame from one person to the next this evening.
As you think about all of that this Christmas, think about all that symbolism. Think about that light that has come into the darkness of the world. As the darkness of this night gives way to the light of Christmas morning, think about how that symbolizes the light of Jesus coming to a darkened world.
Now I invite you to take out your candle, and prepare to sing of the “Son of God, loves pure light.” I’m going to have us dim all the lights, and put out all the candles – except the Christ candle! And think about the darkness of the world, long ago, while I read this prologue of John once again. And even after the singing is all done, even after you’ve blown out your candle, think of yourself taking that light out into the world with you!
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 were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. 4 In him was life,[a] and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.
9 The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. 11 He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. 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 nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.