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.There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not 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 blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1: 1-14)
So…where are the angels?! Where are the shepherds?! The manger, Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus…where are they this Christmas morning? It might feel a bit strange to not hear the familiar words from Luke’s gospel or any of the others which speak of Jesus’ birth, but I must admit that I love hearing from the prologue to John’s Gospel today. From the words that bring to mind creation, light, and the God who brought light and life to our world by dwelling among us in Jesus Christ. I love hearing these words today because, really and truly, I think we need a little extra reminding these days of the light that shines in the darkness—of God dwelling in our world.
Now, I don’t intend to bring down your Christmas day at all, but are all of you hearing, like I have, of so many people talking about how horrible 2016 has been? Between terror crises happening all over the world, beloved public figures dying left and right, thousands of people being killed and driven from their homes in places like Syria, and dealing with all of the events that have surrounded a controversial presidential election here at home…2016 HAS been rough. It has been dark, for many all over the world, and for those in our midst who have experienced deep, deep losses and struggles in the last year.
So maybe those who are tired of 2016 are right, in a way. Life’s been pretty tough, and there will always be such times in our lives and in our world. But the Good News for us this Christmas day morning is that the light, the Word, the incarnate Son of God has come to this place to dwell with us. Through every joy, every struggle, and every awful thing that we have seen this year…God has chosen to dwell, to live and move among us in Jesus Christ. The child born of Mary has indeed been born among us, to bring light and truth into all of the dark places we have ever seen or experienced. And in him, we have seen God’s glory, hope, and love.
Indeed, God in Jesus Christ came on the scene for more reasons than to just hang out with us for awhile, and to remind us of God’s love. He came to embody God’s love for us by his miraculous birth, by truly knowing what it means to be human—to know what it means to love, to laugh, to cry, and yes, to experience pain and death. That…always, always leaves me in awe of this God we worship and serve. That God loved us so much as to live a human life, and to die a human death, so that we might know forgiveness and new life—the true light and promise that forever shine in the darkness.
You hear me say those promises each week, in one way or another. But, on Christmas day, maybe we hear them a little differently, a little more strongly as we seek to understand the mysteries of God that were revealed in that manger, and from the very beginning of creation. Maybe we hear them a little differently and more strongly at this time of year when we’re told we should be happy and thankful, but are perhaps struggling and sitting in darkness.
I pray we all hear them a little differently today, actually. Because we’ve got a week left of what’s been a pretty tough year for a lot of us. A week that should not be wasted in darkness, but lived fully in the light of our Lord who has come to us, to be God’s love and grace embodied for us. For he is indeed full of God’s grace, truth, and hope that the darkness (whether it be the darkness of the last year or the darkness of a painful life) has been overcome.
Darkness has not won the day, no matter what the voices around us may say. God’s love in Jesus Christ, born of Mary and the Sprit, has won the day—has won the world. And today, Christmas day—may we remember how that love came to dwell among us in Word, light, the Son of God incarnate—in Jesus Christ, the one born to live, to die, and to rise for the sake of a world who so deeply needs to know God’s light, forgiveness, and hope that has overcome all darkness.