The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).
I love Christmas lights. How about you? Growing up, my grandparents were really big into Christmas lights. Their house sat on a five acre plot of land with a ridiculously long driveway. That driveway was lined with mature evergreen trees. Each year, my grandfather would cover those large evergreens with Christmas lights, along with his house and the spare garage as well. Inside the house, Grandma would have Christmas lights up all over, from the tree, to the mantle and all sorts of other places as well. Though in no way do I try to keep up with them, when it comes to the Christmas tree, I just can’t help but put about 500 lights on our tree that is just a bit taller than seven feet. As I said, I love Christmas lights. How about you?
Even though I love Christmas lights, I think what I appreciate most is when I see a nativity scene with a spotlight directed on the manger holding the baby Jesus. It reminds me of my childhood when the kids from our neighborhood Bible Club would put on a live nativity production for the community. Though there were shepherds, wise men, Joseph, Mary, animals and more, the spotlight for the evening was on the baby Jesus. The neighborhood streets were lined with luminaries (candles in milk jugs) directing everyone’s attention to make their way to the One who truly is the Light, the Light no darkness can overcome.
As we gather here on Christmas day, we are invited to behold the birth of the Christ-child in a new light. Where we might think of the angels, shepherds, Joseph, Mary, the stable and the manger, we are directed to so much more. Though we may look into the manger and see a little baby boy with ten tiny fingers, and ten tiny toes, there is much more here than meets the eye. For as we look into His eyes, we see the very One through whom all creation came into existence.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
Jesus was there in the beginning along with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He is the Word, and as the Word, He was the very instrument used by the Father to bring forth creation. And how amazingly ironic is it that the one who is the Light brought forth the light as the first thing to be created. “Let there be light,” and there was light.
As our eyes are fixed on the Light of Christmas, the baby Jesus, we see that in God’s infinite wisdom He saw fit to have His own Son enter into this world of darkness. Where on the first day, light and darkness were separated, on Christmas day, we see that the Light entered into darkness.
Jesus and His family realized the harsh reality of this darkness from the very beginning of His earthly life. King Herod, in a fit of rage and power ordered that all the male children, two and under, in Bethlehem and the surrounding region be killed. But thanks be to God, an angel intervened who told them to flee to Egypt before Herod’s soldiers came rushing in.
But that didn’t stop the darkness from pressing in. Tempted by Satan in the wilderness with no food for forty days. Rejected by his family who thought He was so crazy they wanted to arrest Him. Pharisees and Sadducees constantly breathing down His neck with questions and accusations. His own disciple Judas, in the cover of night came and betrayed Him with a kiss. His people shouted for His crucifixion. The government washed their hands of Him as they whipped Him and spat in His face. He was forced to carry His own cross that they nailed him to. And then as darkness hung over the face of the earth from noon until three in the afternoon, His own Father answered His cries with a deafening silence, allowing Him to hang there and breathe His last.
It looked like even though the Light had entered into darkness, the darkness had won. How often do we feel that way? How often does life just seem so dark? Like there is no hope in this world. Like there is no light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. That is the unfortunate hold that sin and Satan can have on us when we turn away from the Light. The devil tries to isolate us, to get us to believe that our sins are unforgivable, and that the wounds we bear because of sins committed against us could never be healed. He wants us to go down into the darkness and remain there to the point of death.
But Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. It is as Pastor Lucas often said, that when light enters into darkness, the light always wins.
When he would say that, I would always think about being on vacation taking a tour of a deep cave. The guide would tell us they were going to turn out the lights, and no matter how dark they told us it would be, none of us were prepared for how dark it instantly became. But as soon as they lit a match, it was as if you could see everything. The light always wins.
Jesus did not leave us alone to die in the darkness. No! The very Word which brought forth the light became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14) to save us.
We do not have a distant God. Our God comes to us, lives with us, and lays down His life for us. He sees us in our helpless state in this dark valley of the shadow of death, and He enters into it. Where anyone else would fear to tread, He enters into the darkness of death itself, meets the devil face to face, crushes Him with all His might, and proclaims victory over him on his own home turf.
And even though darkness may have hung over the land from the sixth hour to the ninth hour…even though darkness filled the tomb as Pilate ordered it sealed and a guard put in place…it didn’t stop Jesus from bursting out of the tomb alive. It didn’t stop the Easter morning sunlight from shining in and shedding a spotlight on the risen Son of God. Indeed, the Light has won and the victory is now ours.
We each have been given the Light of Christ. His light dwells within us. He has entered into us to expose and extinguish every ounce of darkness within us. From the sins which darken our past to the sinful wounds which darken each day. His light shines and eliminates all of them. It’s what the Light does. The Light defeats the darkness every time.
This is the good news of great joy we have been given to proclaim to all people. This little child with ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes is much more than meets the eye. He is the Light of the World, who brought forth light and life into this world. And now He calls upon us to share His light with others.
As baptized believers, God has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1st Peter 2:9) so that His light may shine before others (Matthew 5:16) and those living in darkness may see His great light (Matthew 4:16) and glory may be given to God (Matthew 5:16). The same glory that shone around the angels as they proclaimed to the shepherds that the Light of Christmas had come, who is Christ the Lord.
What a gift we have been given, and the darkness will not overcome it! A gift we can be reminded of every time we see those Christmas lights all around us. Christ, who is the Light of the world has come to save us. It is a gift for us to receive, to celebrate, and to share. It is indeed a Merry Christmas! Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.