Speaker: Pastor Stephen “Tig” Intagliata
Main Bible Passage: John 1:1-14
The journey of the Magi following the light of the star to find the baby Jesus in Bethlehem is just one of many ways that the image of light takes center stage during this time of the year.
The Jewish festival of Hanukkah was just celebrated, and Hanukkah is also known as the festival of lights, commemorated by lighting candles on a menorah.
It remembers the time when the Jewish people regained access to their temple, and how they only had enough oil to light the menorah for one day, but the oil miraculously lasted for one eight days, keeping the menorah burning and the temple lit until they could get more oil.
Light is also all around us this time of the year. During this Christmas season and all its hours of darkness, lots of people brighten up their homes and their yards with all kinds of lights and figures that shine brightly.
One of our grandson Gabe’s favorite things to do before bedtime is have his parents drive him around the neighborhood and see all the lights and especially the blow ups that are glowing—he especially likes the snowmen!
We may see less nativity scenes in yards than we did in years past, but the lights can remind us of Isaiah’s prophecy that we heard earlier in this service, which speaks of the great light shining upon a world covered in darkness, the light of God shining on people walking in darkness.
We also heard the proclamation of John that Jesus, the living word of God, the Word made flesh, who John says is “the true light, that gives light to everyone, has come into the world.” (John 1:9).
Wasn’t it beautiful to hear it in all these different languages from around the world! It was like a foretaste of what heaven will be like, where people of all cultures and languages will be together, all barriers that divide people will be broken down and we will live in communion with each other, and with the God who created us and our world.
John also says “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”.
We often hear the there is much darkness in the world. What does it mean that the world is filled with darkness?
Author and pastor Tim Keller talks about why the world is a dark place in his book “Hidden Christmas”. He says that the “darkness” refers to two main realities. The first reality is evil and suffering.
He says “look at what was happening at the time of Jesus—violence, injustice, abuse of power, homelessness, refugees fleeing oppression, families ripped apart, and bottomless grief.” And then he says “it sounds exactly like today.” (Hidden Christmas, p. 6).
It does, doesn’t it. I think of our Afghan friends who were refugees who fled their country due to the oppression of the Taliban. And now they’re concerned for their family and friends still there, and recent developments that the government has banned higher education for all women.
I also think of people who have made the long journey to our southern border, escaping brutal poverty and injustices in their countries, and now separated from their families and loved ones, and hoping to be welcomed into our country.
Keller also mentions bottomless grief. I think of people who have lost loved ones this past year, and who are spending their first Christmas without them. I also think of people who are dealing with mental illness, and the darkness they experience as a result of it.
Then Keller says that a second manifestation of darkness in our world is due to ignorance. By ignorance he means that “No one knows enough to (be able to) cure the evil and suffering in the world.”
He says that so much of the time people think that the darkness can be overcome by human means—through science, through technology, through government programs.
But as good and as worthwhile and as enlightening as science and technology and government can be, in and of themselves, they all fall short of being able to dispel the darkness in the world.
Keller says that the kind of light that is needed to overcome the darkness of the world comes from the outside; as John says in our scripture, it has come in the person of Jesus, who is God’s Word made flesh.
And this good news of Jesus coming into the world is as true today as it was back then. Dorothy Day, cofounder of the Catholic Worker, said
“It is no use saying that we are born 2000 years too late to make room for Christ…for Christ is always with us, always asking for room in our hearts.”
So on this eve of Christ’s birth, let us each make space for Jesus to come into our heart and into our world. Into the suffering and injustice and evil in the world, the light of Jesus can shine and bring hope.
Into the brokenness and pain and cynicism and hardness of our heart, the light of Jesus can shine and bring healing.
We can find hope and healing because even in our darkest moments, we are not alone.
Friends, we are not alone, because Jesus, the light of the world, dwells among us. And we are not alone, because there are others around us who remind us of that light, and sometimes even be that light of Jesus to us when our own darkness prevents us from seeing it.
So tonight we’re going to experience together the light of Jesus shining in the darkness through the lighting of candles and the singing of Silent Night, remembering that special night in Bethlehem when God chose to come into the world as a baby in a manger.