John 1:9-13 (The Nativity of Our Lord—Christmas Day)
“The Light of Christmas”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
December 25, 2019
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Our text is recorded in the Gospel reading from John 1:
9The true light, which enlightens every man, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world and the world was made through him yet the world did not know him. 11He came to his own, but his own did not receive him. 12But as many as did receive him, he gave to those who believe into his name authority to be children of God, 13who were born, not from blood, nor from the will of the flesh, not from the will of a man, but from God.
One of the most exciting things about Christmas time growing up was when Dad would put the string of lights outside and I would get to help. And by help, I mean I got to watch as he hung them from the cup hooks under the front eave. Nothing fancy—one line of colored lights—but that was perfect. The Christmas lights were up and lit for all to see! Then, on Christmas morning, Dad would plug in the lights on the tree and flip the switch for the outdoor lights announcing that Christmas Day was finally here (and we could open our presents under the lights of Christmas!) Have you ever stopped to think: why lights at Christmas?
We decorate our homes with light—white, blue, multi-colored; twinkling, twirling, steady, blinking. Light dispels darkness. Turn on a lamp in a dark room and the darkness disappears. Ever since Genesis, chapter 3, the whole creation of God, and humanity in particular, has been plunged into the cosmic darkness of sin and death. The prophet Isaiah described people as “walking in darkness” (Is. 9:2). The apostle Paul has written that we were, at one time, “darkness” and were “under the domain of darkness” (Eph. 5:8; Col. 1:13). That’s the nature of sin. It places us into the darkness, without true fear, love, and trust in God. We do not know God as He wishes to be known. By nature, we have no regard for Him or for His Word. We are turned away from the Lord and unable to look to Him for security, meaning, and righteousness. We love ourselves first and foremost and fail to love God and our neighbors. We are spiritually dead people, enemies of God, enslaved in a lifelong sinful condition from which we cannot free ourselves. Is it any wonder that the Bible calls this sinful, fallen condition “darkness”?
To escape this lost condition that ultimately leads into the deep darkness and shadows of eternal death, a divine rescue mission was needed. The “true light” must come into the world of hostile darkness, into a world of sin and separation from God. That’s the rescue mission for God the Son.
On Christmas, the Light began to shine into the cold darkness of sin and death. On Christmas, the true Light that enlightens 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.
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.”
This is Good News for everyone! “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). Jesus Christ has purchased and won for you the full and complete forgiveness for all your sins. He chased away the darkness of your sin with His blood-bought forgiveness and has enabled you to live safely in the light of His love and grace.
In Christ, we have light and life. You and I no longer live in darkness of sin and death! Into our once darkened hearts, Jesus has given the light of His gracious favor through the work of the Holy Spirit. 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. 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 and on our homes. They represent Jesus, the true Light. Jesus also 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. Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, “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). Martin Luther commented, “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? I don’t think I could. Jesus Christ is the true light of Christmas. He came into the darkness of 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. As the concluding liturgy of Holy Baptism reminds us, “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.” Amen.
 Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 21: The Sermon on the Mount and the Magnificat, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 21 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 65.