Good morning, Friends! Happy New Year!
I hope you’re all doing well. The youth group rang in the New Year during their lock-in here on Tuesday night. They rang the old school bell outside at midnight and woke up the whole neighborhood. It’s good to let everybody know we’re here!
As you can tell, I’ve got a bad cold, and I don’t know if my voice will keep working. So, I’m not going to try for a long sermon this morning.
I want to start the New Year with a reading from the gospel of John. John is different from the other gospels — for one thing, John doesn’t tell us the Christmas story. There are no angels in John, no shepherds, no wise men, none of that stuff.
For John, the important thing isn’t Jesus being born in a stable. John says that Christ is the Light. And the Light has been shining, since before the world was made, before time began. Let’s hear how John tells the story.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning.
All things were made through the Word. Without the Word, nothing created has been made.
In the Word was life, and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never overcome it.John 1:1-5
John has a very different idea about Jesus than what we’re used to. John tells a lot of stories about Jesus, but John’s got a different point of view.
In the other gospels, Christ is the little baby Jesus, born in a stable in Bethlehem. Christ is the descendant of King David, the greatest king of Israel. He’s going to make Israel great again!
With John, it’s like he’s saying, “Your vision is too limited.” He’s saying, “Your God is way too small! Christ isn’t just the rescuer of the Jewish people. This is the Savior of the entire world we’re talking about!”
Christ isn’t just a messenger. Christ is the message. Christ is God’s own word, to everyone, everywhere, at all times.
John says that the Word has been here, all along. John says even before history began, God had a plan.
God knew we would get lost and get in trouble. God knew that the world would need to get straightened out.
God knew we were going to need a Savior! And God was ready, even before the first day of creation.
Do you all remember, how it starts in the book of Genesis? It says everything was dark, and empty, and without any kind of shape. And the wind of God, the Holy Spirit, swept across the face of the deep.
Do you remember, the first thing that God said? God said, “Let there be Light,” and there was light.
For the writer of John’s gospel, that light was Christ. God said, “Let there be Light,” and Christ was there. Christ is the very first word that God says. Christ is the very first light in all the world. That’s how early it all gets started for John. Christ is the Light of the World. Christ is blazing across the world from Day #1.
John isn’t concerned about Bethlehem and the stable, because for John, it’s all been there since before the beginning.
John cares about the Jewish people, but John says that Jesus came for everyone. Does anybody here remember what it says in John 3:16 and 17?
“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but have eternal life. God didn’t send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through him. . .”
That’s John’s agenda. Not just Israel, but the whole world. Not just Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, but Christ, the Light of all people, the Light that has always been shining, the Light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.
If you read on in the first chapter of John, John says some incredibly powerful and important things about Christ.
He says, “The true light, that enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. . .” That phrase “was coming” shows how active John sees all this. Christ is moving, Christ is acting, Christ is blazing across the world.
Christ isn’t parked way up in Heaven, sitting forever at the right hand of God. Christ has come down here, to be among us, one of us.
Christ is fully human. In John’s gospel, Jesus gets tired, and he sits down by a well to rest, and strikes up a conversation with a woman who came there with her bucket.
When one of Jesus’ best friends, Lazarus, died, Jesus was human. What did Jesus do? He wept for his friend.
Lots of other things about Jesus that John points out, to prove that Jesus was human. But John was equally clear that Jesus was divine. He’s the Light. He’s the Word. He’s the Good Shepherd. He’s the Way, the Truth and the Life. He’s the Bread of Life. He’s the Resurrection.
John is so excited by this, it’s almost as if John is having to invent a whole new language to talk about Christ.
In John, Jesus cries out: “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me, but in the One who sent me. Whoever sees me, sees the one who sent me. I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness. I don’t judge anyone who hears my words and doesn’t keep them. I didn’t come to judge the world, but the save the world.” (John 12:44-47)
John says that the Light is still shining, and the darkness has never put it out. All those terrible events in the news – the light is still shining. All those dark chapters in human history – but the darkness has never put out the light, and it never will.
Even when we lose hope, even when we lose faith – the light is still shining. That’s John’s great good news.
There is no place that the light can’t reach. There is no dark corner that is too dark for Christ to shine into. There is no dark place in our hearts or in our minds, no dark memory where the Light can’t reach, and heal, and save. There is no place where Christ can’t reach out to us. If you don’t understand this, your God is too small.
John says, “He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world didn’t know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people didn’t accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of flesh and blood or human will, but who were born of God.”
“The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory – the glory of a father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. And from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.”
That’s the beginning of the good news according to John. That’s how we’re starting the new year.
Over the next few months, right up till Easter, we’ll be reading more every week from John’s gospel. But for today, remember that the Light is still shining, and the darkness has never put it out.