Shine in our hearts, oh God, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of your beloved son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
This Gospel text that we just heard – this beautiful, beautiful poem about Jesus – is a sermon in its own right. It needs no scholarly interpretation or careful unpacking – it is the Good News given to us in wonder and radiance and joy. All we can do is pay attention as the author of the Gospel of John preaches the Word to us today. Listen to his words again:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made, and without him nothing was made that has been made.
In the very beginning, before history, before the world, before oxygen or constellations or time itself – in the beginning was the Word, the Speech, the Wisdom, of God, with God in the beginning, creating all things, bringing all things into existence through his love and delight and joy and creativity.
And in this Word that was with God and that was God
was life, and the life was the light of the world. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
The darkness exists, and did exist, and the troubles of the first century and the twenty-first century bring tears, and pain, and doubt, and grief, and we feel it. We know it, too well. But today the reassurance is there and is all around us and pulses through our very beings. Today we know that this Light is incomparably great, that the darkness has no chance against it. The darkness will never overcome it. The Light wins and the Light has won. This is our hope, and this is the truth of Christmas, and this is the truth that we will celebrate at Easter in a few months, when the Light takes on the darkness of the world first-hand, nails it to the cross, and shines right through it, and burst it into pieces, destroying it forever. This is our hope, that the darkness did its worst, and was resoundingly defeated.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.
He was known as John the Baptist, and he modelled the perfect witness to the light. He was not tempted to claim the attention for himself, or to turn his popularity to his own advantage. “I am not the light!” he freely admitted. “But he is here! See him, recognise him, repent, turn around! Believe his message!” And then go, and be light-bearers yourselves, and pointers to the Light. Testify that you know the Light of the world, and that the darkness will not win, it cannot win, it has no chance of winning, because the Light is real, and the Light is love, and the Light has already conquered the darkness.
And the Light conquered not by remaining far off, but by
coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.
His very own people, the Jews, could not accept that the Light would come in this form, that the Messiah that they so longed for, and that they still pray for, would dare to come to the world in the most helpless form of all, completely vulnerable. They wanted a King and a conqueror, and he came, but they did not recognise him. They looked at him, and they turned away from Light to darkness. And all around us are those who still can’t believe that God would dare, that such an incredible thing could be true. And they turn away from Light to darkness. And sometimes we, too, are overwhelmed by the darkness, and we, too, turn away from the Light. But the Light beckons to us, reminding us that we are called to be Light-bearers, to testify to him, to say – Yes, it’s true, we know him, we have seen his glory. We have felt his love.
to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
In a world where might makes right, and the darkness seems to be victorious, where worth and identity are measured by money and success and appearances, we have been given the ultimate power of all, a power not understood on Wall Street or in the Oval Office or by those who hold weapons of terror across the world. We have been given the power to become children of God, beloved sons and daughters of the One who created the very universe and breathed us into existence. Children of the One who continues breathing his life and love and light and his very Spirit into us every single day. We have been given power to be filled up again and again with his goodness and his power, the power to deny the darkness and to love the light. The power to know ourselves as precious and loved. The power to forgive as he forgave, and the power to love as he has loved.
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of the only begotten, full of grace and truth.
Welcome to Christmas, friends. Welcome to the good – the great – news of a child born and laid in a manger of a stable in a backwater province in a country across the ocean over two thousand years ago. Welcome to the wonder of a child who is the Word of God, who is with God, who is God, who created all things, and who calls us to be children of God.
We have seen his glory, the glory as of the only begotten, full of grace and truth.
Go. Testify to his glory, and be bearers of the Light.