Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Jesus is the Light of the World

John 1:1-14  Growing up, we always took our vacations in Texas.  My dad’s motto was that if there was anything worth seeing, it had to be in Texas.  One year we would go to San Antonio and then the next year to the beach and then the next year to Austin.  One of those vacations that I remember is the trip to the various hill country caverns.
One of the things the guides loved to do when you got the deepest part of the caves, was to turn off the lights. Even though he had warned you ahead of time, that degree of darkness was a bit overwhelming—you literally couldn’t see your own hand in front of your face. 
Even though you knew he had his hand on the switch, you could understand the panic that those lost in the darkness of caves must feel—and then the relief when the lights came back on—the palpable release of tension that left the tour group.
Today we rejoice in the Good News that the Light of the world, Jesus Christ, has shown into our dark world, dispelling the darkness of sin and death from our lives and lighting the way to a life with God.  The simple promise from John’s Gospel is that:  “The light shines in darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Human beings have an innate fear of the dark.  When we’re little, we have to have a night light on in our room to make us feel safe and secure but as we get older, even that doesn’t help-- because the dark fears we face are not dispelled by a little light plugged into the wall beside our bed. 
We may not be afraid of those things that go bump in the night but we are afraid by those things that cast a dark shadow over our lives—because while the boogey man may not live under the bed—there are dark things in this world that can really hurt us and those we loved.
When we receive that news that our medical test results are not normal—when we see our children heading in a direction that we know will hurt them—when we’re not sure how our financial situation is going to work out—when it seems like the culture around us is on an ever-deeper downward spiral into filth—all of these and more cast a dark shadow over our lives.
And then there are those dark parts within us all—that perhaps even more than the things outside of us—make us afraid. 
We see entrenched bitterness and anger towards others and we know its not right but we can’t get past it—we see besetting sin that makes us ashamed and guilty and we wonder to ourselves, how can I call myself a Christian and still struggle with that—we see those nagging doubts about the most important things of God—and we try to dispel those doubts, but they are still there.
In this world of sin, there is spiritual darkness that is even more terrifying than the darkness of a deep cave-- which is why these words from John are such good news for us
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.  He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”  THAT ALL MIGHT BELIEVE
The words of the Apostle John and the words of John the Baptist and the words of all prophets and apostles have but one purpose—that we would believe in Jesus Christ, the Light of the world—that we would come into the glorious light of the Son of God—that he would enlighten our hearts and minds and lives and drive away the darkness of sin and death. 
There are countless numbers of people who try to dispel the darkness in the world and in their lives in some way other than faith in Christ.  They pursue false spirituality—they fill their lives with material things—they abuse various substances to numb the dark realities of their lives.  These things of the world don’t enlighten—they don’t give life--they are a part of the “darkness and death” and people in who walk in them are lost and alone.
We don’t have to live like that and God doesn’t want us to live like that.  The Light of the World has come in the birth of the Savior. John tells us that:
“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. “
This of course is the story of Christmas.  Matthew tells his Christmas story by showing us that the Babe of Bethlehem is the Messiah of Jewish Scriptures.  Luke tells his Christmas story by showing the humanity and humility of the Christ Child and the love of God for all people.
But it is John that allows us to look behind the veil of human flesh of a newborn baby and see the cosmic realities hidden in straw and manger—that this Word who became flesh—this light of the world-- did not have his beginnings nine months before his birth—but had always existed—even before there was time.  John tells us that
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”
  It is not merely the birth of a baby that caused a special star to shine and heaven to open and angels to sing and the humble and wise to worship—but the birth of a baby who was none other than God in flesh.
The One who was in the beginning with God—the One who was with God as he began to create the heavens and earth from nothing—the One through whom all things were created—the One who was God himself—took on human flesh and was born in Bethlehem
For two thousand years the mystery of the Incarnation—that an infinite, all-knowing, all-powerful God became man—a baby--has captured the hearts and minds of all those who find Jesus to be light of the world and life of mankind.
And it is a mystery!  Not because it isn’t true but because we can never fully get our minds around it—because it must be revealed to us—that the One through whom all things were created became a creature—that the One who was before all things entered into the world on a particular day in time—that the One who sustains all things in the universe had to be cared for as a newborn—that God became Man so that we could have eternal life with the Father.  John says:
 To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”  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. “  
In Jesus Christ the Light of the World we see the grace of God that reaches down and brings us out of the darkness of sin and unbelief.  In Jesus Christ the Light of the World we discover the truth that sets us free—that life in its fullest sense is found in God.  This grace and truth of God led Jesus to the cross and then to an empty tomb and finally to his rightful place in the glories of heaven so that we might have life and have it to the full.
Through faith in this Good News, we are born again—not by an earthly father but by our heavenly Father--new people—children of the heavenly Father-- and because this is who we are, we don’t have to be afraid of the darkness that surrounds us—not even suffering and death.  We know that we are filled with the Light of the World and the simple promise of Almighty God is that the Light of Christ cannot be overcome by anything in this world.  “Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world!”
Because we have been born from above, because we have been enlightened by the Light of the World we no longer have a desire to be a part of the darkness of this world.  The light of Jesus Christ has shined upon our relationships and upon our work and upon every facet of our lives and so we want to walk in that light.  We are new people with a new perspective and a new purpose in life—to be a part of that great company of saints who have borne witness to the Light of the World for the last two thousand years.
Of all the Texas vacations we took when I was a boy, my favorite, the one that we took several times a year, was a trip to my grandparents’ farm.  There was fishing and hunting and horseback riding and looking for arrowheads—just a hill country farm-but a great adventure for a boy-- and still my favorite place on earth.
When we took this trip, it always seemed like we would get there at night because we would leave when my Dad could finally get away from work.  And as we turned off the highway at the Mercury exit we began our descent down Mercury Mountain to the valley where my grandparent’s live.  Even now there are not many people there—then there were even less--just a few ranches between there and San Saba--many miles from any real town or city lights.  But there in the distance, still miles away, you could make out the light from their farm, shining in the darkness.

That is the purpose of our lives—to be those lights shining in the darkness of this world—reflecting the light of Christ in our marriages and families and homes—drawing the world around to the Light of the World who has come for all.  God grant you and yours a very merry Christmas!  Amen.

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