The Light is Coming...
"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."
-John 1: 1-5
There is no manger. No cattle. No star. No shepherds. There's not even Mary and Joseph. For the writer of the Gospel of John there is only the Word. For the good news of John's whole Gospel, and the good news of this Christmas Day is summed up in this passage we just heard: The Word through which all things came into being loved us so much, that it became human, taking on our fragility, our sadness, our joys. In this Christmas story there is only the Word, Jesus.
This, I'm not ashamed to admit, is my favorite Christmas story. Because while the manger and the cattle and Mary and Joseph add something special, something we all can relate to, this story is not concerned with anything except this: the Word of God became human. Nothing else matters. And with this action God has changed the course of history; humanity and God are reconciled. Our story has become God's story, and vice versa.
John's Christmas story echoes the creation story in Genesis. Just as God breaks through the darkness of chaos and says, "Let there be light," here the Logos, the Word, is the Light, the Light of all people, the Light of life, and it shines in the darkness. Jesus shines in the darkness. That is the Christmas message: the light of the world has stepped out into the world.
It is a world that we know can be a very dark place. Notice that John does not say that the light comes to destroy the darkness, to dispel it. The light merely shines in the darkness. But the good news John gives us this Christmas story is that Jesus, the light, is right there in the middle of the darkness, shining, standing beside us, holding our hand through whatever life may throw at us. And the darkness, John says, does not and will not overtake the light. There will always be darkness in the world. The darkness of Isis in Syria and Iraq. The darkness of racial tension and violent acts against young black men in Missouri, Staten Island, and Cleveland. The darkness of young gay and lesbian men and women who end their lives because they are bullied and tormented because of who they are. The darkness of hatred and violence in our Lord’s homeland. Yes, there will always be darkness. But the good news in the Christmas story given to us by the Fourth Gospel is that the darkness cannot and will not ever win. Not ever! It may not feel that way most of the time, but no amount of darkness in this world can destroy the Light of God, the Light of Christ. Because the Christ Light, the everlasting light, the light that burned during those first moments of Genesis, has come into the world, and through his life, his death, and his resurrection, the powers of hell have vanished, death has lost its sting, and all things, including the darkness, are reconciled to God.
Christ comes into our world so that that same light might shine in us, that we may share that light with friend and stronger alike. Can you imagine a world where each of us knew with certainty that the Christ light shines in us? Can you imagine a world where we actually treated others as though the Christ light shines in them too, especially those who have never been told that such a light is in them? There's a story about an old monk whose monastery was run down. The community was splintered, and he didn’t know what to do. So he visited an old rabbi, said to be the wisest man in the village. The monk asked the rabbi for guidance, some kind of help to save the monastery. The rabbi's response: the Messiah is in your midst. The old monk was shocked. He took the news back to his brothers. Not knowing which of them could be the Messiah, the brothers treated each other, and everyone that visited that old monastery, as though each was Christ himself. And the community thrived. I suspect that that is the Christmas hope, that the same light that broke through the darkness may be the light we let shine in our own lives, the light that we actively seek out in the face of the Other, whoever that may be. And each year on this day that hope returns. It is the hope that that light may be born anew in us, so that we may transform this darkened world.