John 1:1-14 (The Nativity of Our Lord—Christmas Day)
“The True Light”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
December 25, 2014
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text the Gospel lesson for Christmas Day, recorded in John 1:
“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 any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, 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 as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right 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, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
What would Christmas be without light—lights on the tree, lights on our houses, candles flickering in the windows and on the mantel? It would be pretty dull. What would life be like without light? Life without light would be worse than dull. It would be death.
Darkness is the absence of light, the absence of light’s life-giving qualities. Darkness is being deprived of what we need for survival. What happens when your houseplants don’t get enough light? They suffer. They shrivel and die. What happens when people are deprived of light? They suffer serious physical and psychological disorders. And darkness is often cold, a further detriment to life. Life without light leads ultimately to death.
And who hasn’t ever been afraid in the dark? Most of us will outgrow our fear of monsters under our beds, which accompanied our fear of the dark, but we likely retain our fear of the dark itself. Who wants to go into a dark alley at night? Who wants to walk into a dark basement or attic in an old, abandoned house? How many people are afraid of caves and other dark places? Darkness, even as adults, instills fear in us because bad things happen in the dark. Evil flourishes in dark places—in back streets and alleys, behind closed doors, in hidden places. It is under the cover of darkness that people do evil deeds. Many live their lives in terror of the evil that lies around the next corner. Some are even so afraid that they won’t leave their own homes.
But what is even more frightening is the evil that lurks in the darkness of our own hearts. We fear the truth will be brought to light that we are less than perfect, less than good, less than well-behaved. Not one of us wants our secret sins exposed for the world to see. That’s because, by nature we love our sins and don’t want to give them up. If we can keep our wicked thoughts and sinful actions “in the dark,” perhaps we can continue in our sins a little longer for the pleasure they bring. As long as what we think and say and do is “under the cover of darkness,” we feel safe and secure in our sins. But remaining in our sins simply leaves us in the dark.
Staying in our sins means that we have to stumble and grope about in the dark, not knowing the way. In the darkness of our sins we wander into unsafe places because we can’t see where we are going. We begin to feel hopeless and confused, blind and scared. We begin to feel the cold of guilt and we feel dead. We feel dead because we are dead—dead in our trespasses and sins. In the void of darkness and sin, we can only shrivel and die.
Somebody! Please, turn on the Light! My life is too dark. I’m too afraid of the evil around me and the evil within myself! It’s so cold. It’s so lonely. I can’t find my way; I don’t know where to go. All I can do is sit here and wrap myself up into a ball. I’m too scared to move.
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 ESV)
What happens to the darkness when you turn on a light? The darkness is gone; it is scattered, chased away. On Christmas, the Light began to shine in the cold darkness of sin and death. On Christmas, the true Light that gives light to every person came into the world to get rid of the darkness of sin and death. In the beginning, when the Lord was ready to start creation, darkness was over the face of the deep until the Triune God spoke, “Let there be light!” And there was light. With the incarnation of Jesus Christ and His birth into the world of darkness, a new creation begins with the coming of the Light. Jesus banishes the darkness of sin and death because Jesus is the Light of the world, light incarnate, light personified.
Here, in this darkened world, Jesus shines His light. Here, into our darkened hearts, Jesus gives the light of His grace and forgiveness. This light of salvation is given to us, not by removing us from the darkness, but by His entering into our darkness, by Christ being enveloped in the darkness of our sin and death, by Jesus being oppressed by the darkness of our evil. “From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land,” Matthew records in his Gospel. (Matt. 27:45) On the cross, Jesus went into the darkness of death and hell, bearing our sins. The Early Church father St. Augustine wrote, “[Jesus] accepted death from what was ours, in order to give us life from what was his. How did he get death from what was ours? ‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.’ He accepted from us here what he would offer for us. And where did life come from for us? ‘And the life was the light of men.’ He was life for us; we were death for him.”
Here, then, is Good News for every one! “The darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining!” (1 John 2:8) “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” (Eph. 5:8 CSB) The light of salvation and forgiveness in Jesus revives you with the warmth of His light and brings you back to life, back to light. Jesus Christ has purchased and won for you the full and complete forgiveness for all your sins. He chases away the darkness of your sin with His blood-bought forgiveness. He scatters the evil of this dark world and enables you to live safely in the light of His love. He shows you, by the power of His Spirit, the way to the knowledge of the truth, so you need not continue to stumble and fall in the darkness of sin. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:6 ESV) “When ‘light’ has shown upon us, there is no longer darkness, but life always remains within us, and death cannot overcome it.” (Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of John)
Thus in Christ we have light and life. You and I no longer live in darkness! We bask in the light, in the life, in the goodness and wisdom of Christ’s light. We are forgiven. The darkness of sin and guilt is removed by the bright light of the cross of Christ. We have eternal life. The darkness of death is defeated by the resurrection glory of Jesus. Into our once darkened hearts Jesus has given the light of His grace and favor. He became the “darkness of the world” for us so that we might be the “light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14)
Think of the lights on the Christmas tree. They represent Jesus, the true Light. Picture yourselves as the Christmas balls and ornaments that reflect the lights. Jesus calls you to be His light in this world! You are the light of the world as you reflect the light of Christ into the darkened lives of others. Through your words and actions, you share the love and mercy of God. You tell others the Good News of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection that scatters the darkness of sin and overcomes the dark night of death. You help those in need with your time and talents; you give of your treasure to those who lack the necessities of life. “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) Luther wrote, “What [Jesus] calls ‘good works’ here is the exercise, expression, and confession of the teaching about Christ and faith. . . . Shining is the real job of believing or teaching, by which we also help others to believe.” So our good works done in faith are meant to lead others to glorify our Father in heaven. Our whole purpose as Jesus’ lights in the world is to lead others to worship the true God so that through faith in His Son, they might receive the light of forgiveness and life in Christ.
Imagine Christmas without lights? No way! Think about life without light? Not a chance! Jesus Christ is the true light. He came into the darkness of our sin and death and wiped the darkness away by His sacrifice on the cross and His glorious resurrection. The light of Jesus’ love and mercy shines bright like the sun, so bright that you and I not only live in His light but also reflect His light to everyone. “You have received Christ who is the Light of world. Live always in the light of Christ, and be ever watchful for His coming, that you may meet Him with joy and enter with Him into the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which shall have no end.” (Holy Baptism) Amen.