“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 came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.”
So starts the gospel of John
Tonight on this Christmas eve,
we gather to welcome the light into the world
in the form of a baby
born to people and in a place
that virtually assured this baby would not be noticed.
And yet thousands of years later
here we are,
because of that baby,
the light of the world.
Christians have long used the imagery of light
to represent God and all that is related to God.
It is no accident that the celebration of Jesus’ entry into the world
falls at the darkest time of the year in the northern hemisphere
where Christianity had its beginnings,
at this time of year,
when light is absent
we are keenly aware
of just how much life depends on light
and we eagerly await the lengthening of days
because we know that with the passage of time t
he light will come back
just as we know that the sun will come up each morning.
In the same way we as Christians
trust that Jesus the light of the world
no matter how dark or hopeless the world seems,
though we’re not as sure of the timing
we set our hope on the return of the light.
Now before we go any farther
we need to pause and remember
that God created the night as well as the day,
no one image can fully capture the reality of God,
all images have their failings
and the failing of this one
is that if we take it too far
we start to imagine that everything light is good
and everything dark is bad.
This is not Star Wars
with a clearly defined light side and dark side
corresponding to good and evil,
God’s creation is far more complex and beautiful than that.
However, it is undeniable
that an absence of light
provides cover for those who do not wish their actions to be noticed
because those actions serve only themselves
rather than the good of God’s whole creation
and truth be told
sometimes these actions are made in broad daylight
but those who witness them either think that nothing is wrong
or they are afraid to tell others for any number of reasons.
Jesus the light of the world
promises that in the end,
everything will be revealed.
In the gospel of Matthew he tells his disciples
“nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.” (10:26)
We are in a time where things are being uncovered
and the light is spreading,
revealing that which has been hidden or protected by fear.
This is not always comfortable,
if we are used to being in the dark
and the light switch is flipped on suddenly
and we are unprepared
it hurts our eyes
but only for a moment
once they adjust
we can see things much clearer than before
and that momentary pain is worth the clarity the light brings.
God knew that it might be too much to handle
if everything was revealed all at once
so God started with a small spark of light.
It only takes a small spark
to turn into a flame
that has the power to reveal the way through a darkened room,
or as we’ll find later illumine words on a page,
if nurtured and fed
that flame will create more and more light
finding its way to places where light has long been absent,
revealing what has long been hidden
bringing warmth and life.
The small spark that began to reveal God
is the baby in the manger we celebrate tonight,
noticed at first only by his parents
and then some awestruck shepherds
who had angelic help to point the way.
But that light grew,
nurtured by his parents and community
until the time came to start spreading the light,
and even then it spread slowly,
first to fishermen and others to whom the world paid little attention
and then to more and more people,
often the ones without worldly power,
but worldly power is unnecessary for spreading the light.
The miracle of this night
so many years later
is that through Jesus
we have become carriers of the light of God
in baptism the light is shared with us
and we are then called to share the light with others
much in the same way
that we will pass the light down the pews later
(tilting the unlit candle)
it only takes a moment to share the light.
And if you think that you are insignificant,
that no one pays much attention to you,
remember, that’s how this all started,
in the most insignificant way possible.
So on this dark night
hear again the words of Jesus to his disciples
“You are the light of the world. A city build on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:15-16)
Because of the baby born this night
You are the light of the world,
within you lies the power to reveal what has long been hidden,
to bring warmth and life to those around you
and in your own way
add to the return of light to this weary world.
The light shines in the darkness
and the darkness did not overcome it. Amen