Good morning, Friends! Merry Christmas!
We’ve heard a couple of Christmas stories already this year – the ones about the angels and the shepherds, the wise men and the star. We’ve heard about Mary and Joseph, their visions and dreams.
But we haven’t listened to the other Christmas story. We’ve heard about Christmas from humanity’s point of view. But today’s reading is about Christmas from God’s point of view.
God was waiting for Christmas for a long, long time. Not just the few hundred years since King David. God had been waiting much longer than the fifteen hundred years since Moses, or the two thousand years since Sarah and Abraham. All those years passed very quickly for God.
No. The Christmas story, from God’s point of view, began long before that. It goes all the way back to before the beginning of all things, before measurement of time makes any kind of sense.
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.
Through the Word all things were made; without the Word, nothing was made that has been made.
In the Word was life, and that life was the light of all people. And the light still shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.John 1:1-5
What do those words really mean? What do they have to do with Christmas?
When Jesus was born, people had been praying for something to happen. It seemed to them like they’d been praying for a long time.
They were hoping for a Savior, for someone to help them. They were hoping and praying that one day they would be able to sing together the vision/song/prayer of the prophet Isaiah, who said,
For unto us a Son is born,Isaiah 9:6
Unto us a Child is given,
Authority rests on his shoulders,
And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. . .
People had been praying for the Savior for generations. But God had been waiting and working for much longer than that.
In the beginning, when everything was a formless void, and darkness covered the face of the deep, the breath of God swept over the infinite ocean. And God said, “Let there be LIGHT!” And there was light. And God saw that the Light was good. . .Genesis 1:1-4
From God’s point of view, the story began way back then. Not in a manger in a forgotten stable. Not in a corner of a poor, occupied country.
God’s work began at the very beginning. God’s light and love are revealed to us at Christmas, but God’s work began a long time ago.
Before you or me, long before our generation. Before anything was written down. God’s work began so long ago that time doesn’t matter.
Christmas says that God came among us, to be with us, to be one of us. God, who no one can see, came and took on our human shape and form, took on our flesh, so that we could all see and hear what God has in mind.
But that human form, who we call Jesus, wasn’t something new. Christ, the Word, the Light, the saving power of God, had been there since the beginning.
People have been trying to understand this stuff for a long time. Our best attempts only partly make sense.
People talk about Christ as the Savior – the one who saves us from the impossible tangle of human history and mistakes we’re trapped in.
People talk about Christ as the Redeemer – as the one who redeems us, who brings people out of slavery, who rescues us from imprisonment and bondage and addiction of every kind. Christ the Redeemer is a powerful way of understanding what God is up to.
John’s gospel talks to us about Christ as the Word. That needs a little explanation.
When God speaks, things happen. Whole worlds are created by the Word. God says, “Let there be light!”, and it HAPPENS.
When God says, “Let the earth be gathered into one place, and the seas,” when God says, “Let there be a sun, and moon, and stars,” and all that other stuff, it HAPPENED.
When God said, “Let us make human beings in our own image,” and formed us and breathed a living spirit into us, it was so. To this very day, no one knows how everything was formed and came together. To this day, no one knows why life happens.
Our Scripture today says that Christ was there — that Christ was part of that creation. Christ is the Word God spoke, at the beginning of all things.
And that Word is powerful. When God says, “Let my people go,” people are freed. When Christ says, “Be healed,” or “You are forgiven,” then we ARE healed and forgiven, in spite of all the obstacles.
People also used to talk about the Word as the Holy Spirit, or as Holy Wisdom. They felt that God brought reason into the world, that God brought order out of chaos.
All of the good, right, reasonable, intelligent and just things in the world, people felt, come from God. All of the evil, wrong, unreasonable and unjust things, come from somewhere else.
All real knowledge of everything comes to us from God. All lies, all untruth and half-truth, comes from somewhere else.
God is the source, the well-spring, of everything good that we know. Whenever we learn more, in some sense we’re learning about God and the world which God has made.
All that, and much more, is behind what the writer of John’s gospel meant when talking about God as the Word. That Word, that Holy Wisdom, that deep understanding, was present at the beginning of all things.
In the Word was Life, and the Life was the Light of all people, and the Light still shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never overcome it. . .
That’s a whole lot of insight there, in just a few words. Word, Life, Light. We spend a lifetime trying to understand it all. Every day brings fresh experience of who God is, and what God wants to share with us.
The first Christmas happened a long time ago, but God is still doing new things, every day. And as it says, no matter how dark the world seems to us sometimes, “the Light still shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never overcome it. . .”
Those words are what Christmas is all about.
The Light of Christ shines, when everything around us is dark. The Light of Christ guides us, when we can’t really see where to go. Whether it’s our outward, physical circumstances, or whether it’s the internal, spiritual, psychological and relational knots we get all tangled up with, I want you to remember those words and hold them in your heart.
“The Light still shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never overcome it. . .”
All the different symbols of light that we enjoy so much – candles, camp fires, lighthouses, lanterns, stars, even the Sun – are only reflections of the Light of Christ.
When we make pictures of saints and angels wearing shiny haloes, we’re trying to say that some beings reflect the Light of Christ to us when we meet them.
When Quakers talk about God as the Inner Light or the Light Within, we’re going straight back to what this morning’s gospel is talking about.
“To all who receive and believe in the Light is given power to become children of God, born not of flesh and blood, but born of God. . .”
Christmas comes at the winter solstice, when the days are short and the nights seem very long. But really, this isn’t the dark time of the year. This is the light season. This is the season when we celebrate Light. All those candles we light, all the trees and decorations, are reminding us that Christ the Light has come.
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld its glory. And from the fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. . .
Today, and over the next few days, I hope you all have a wonderful time. Enjoy your families. Spend time together. Sing a lot, and laugh a lot. Remember the old times, and pray together for good new times in the coming year. Share whatever you have.
I hope this week is a time of blessing for all of us. I hope you all are blessed by health and happiness, by joy and peace, by full hearts and lifted spirits.
And stop and take time to think about Christ as the Light, the true Light, who is coming into the world, about Christ who is shining still, the Light that the darkness has never put out.