In this Christmas Day sermon, I explore John 1:1-14. God enters into our reality as Light shining in darkness, and as the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us.
You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:
Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen
Most of you here today have probably heard me talk about John’s gospel being my favorite, simply because it is so different than the other three gospels. Whenever I encounter it, my first inkling is to compare the differences…and that certainly applies today.
The thought in my mind here with the open verses of John is to compare how each gospel begins…and perhaps more specifically, to recognize just where the good news of Christ needs to begin. Mark starts with John the Baptist, the voice crying in the wilderness to be prepared for the coming Messiah, though by that point Jesus was already around.
Matthew begins with the genealogy of Jesus, going back as far as Abraham. This makes sense with Matthew’s intended Jewish audience, as Abraham represents the beginning of their culture, when he received the covenant from God…a promise that included Christ as a descendant of Abraham, and the way that the entire world would be blessed. Luke also features a genealogy, but he takes it all the way back to Adam, showing us that the good news of Christ includes all of humanity.
But John, he goes all the way back…starting off with a direct reference to Genesis and the creation of the world. In the beginning. We hear John say that in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God…which mirrors our account of the start of our reality through God’s creation…that in the beginning was God.
So it would seem, that the gospel of Jesus Christ starts at the very instant our reality became reality. But its important that we think just a little bit deeper as well. This is, of course, Christmas Day, when we celebrate God entering the world as human…when God physically enters our reality…something that scholars like to call the Incarnation.
Now Matthew and Luke both feature the birth of Jesus…that moment when, as John puts it…the Word becomes flesh, dwelling among us. But some would argue, me included that the incarnation here in John’s gospel…the moment when God enters our reality occurs when the light shines in the darkness…that the light is the presence of God…and the connection between John and Genesis starts to make a little more sense.
When creation began, we hear that the world was formless and void. Now that doesn’t mean that the world was a big mess of stuff, nor does it mean that it was just empty space…rather, reality just wasn’t…but then God said a Word…there’s that Word with God thing…The first thing God said was let there be light…and there was.
The first thing in our reality as we know it, was light…the first step that God took in bringing order to chaos…was light…and if John’s gospel is to be believed, and that everything that has come into being is through this divine word of God, who is God…then the first step that God took towards the ultimate unity, the ultimate togetherness that we will one day experience…the first step was light.
Now here’s the thing about light shining in the darkness. When one occurs, the other doesn’t. Darkness is in essence the absence of light, so if light is there, darkness loses…it retreats. I discovered this first hand about a year and a half ago. We were in Colorado at family camp, and I woke up in the middle of the night…at it was utter darkness in our cabin…and for the first time ever, I experience claustrophobia…fear simply because I could not see. But then I grabbed my phone and turned on the screen for just a brief moment…and that gave enough light to drive that fear right out of me…it gave me hope…and the amazing thing is that even after I shut my phone off again, and I was still in the darkness…the hope that light gave me remained.
I’ve thought a lot about that notion in recent weeks…because I don’t know about you, but it really seems as if our community…both here at church, as well as here in town and the surrounding area…has had a really rough year. 2016 has been a tough one…a lot of death…a lot of broken relationships…a lot of hardships…and I know a lot of people are struggling…but it is in the midst of this very thing that we remember the promise, that the light of God shines in the darkness of this world, and though the darkness is not yet gone, it cannot overcome the light of God…the light of Christ which began at the first instant of creation in the beginning, and then literally…physically entered our world when the word became flesh and dwells among us.
I love that both of those statements include active verbs. The light SHINES…and the Word made flesh DWELLS…and this action is ongoing…still…right here right now…and I’ve seen it…I’ve seen the way that our community has gathered around one another…sharing joys and sorrows…being in community…in relationship with one another…in short…being the body of Christ right here right now.
But since we are one body together, its important that we share our collective experience. And so I’d like to give you the opportunity to share ways that you have seen light shining in the darkness…How do you see God in the here and now?
(Individuals shared various examples).
The Word became flesh and dwells among us…and we have seen his glory. Let us cling to the hope that we find in one another…as the face of God is reflected within your faces…and may that hope that we find in the light of God shining through one another give us strength to face the darkness still present in our world. Amen.