The Light of the World
Sermon Title: The Light of the World
Good News Statement: God sent us the Light of the World
Preached: Friday, December 24th at Dogwood Prairie UMC
Pastor Daniel G. Skelton, M.Div.
Scripture (NRSV): John 1:1-14
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.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined…. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:2, 6-7). These are the words which the Prophet Isaiah shared with his people approximately 730 years before the birth of Christ.
Some scholars have argued that at this point in Isaiah’s writings that Isaiah is not proclaiming about the birth of Jesus, but rather proclaiming about another King to be born soon. Other scholars believe that Isaiah is indeed prophesizing about the birth of Jesus. Who else could bring light to an entire world and save the people from their darkness? Who else could illuminate the hearts of all those who are weary and tired? Who else could turn light into life? No regular king or master of the house could do such things. The one person, who could do all these things, is the person that has come down from heaven, is wrapped in bands of cloth, is lying in a manger, is worthy to be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” and who has taken refuge in your heart.
Isaiah isn’t crying out into the wilderness about some king: he is crying out into the wilderness about the King, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The time has finally arrived to witness the eternal light lying in a manger.
Body: (Light the Christ Candle)
From hearing about Isaiah’s predication of the birth of Jesus to being present as an angel of the Lord appeared before Mary and Joseph, to being in the fields at night with the shepherds to receiving a glimpse of the three Wise Men who are travelling so-far following a star in the East, we have made our journey to Bethlehem, to a manger—a feeding trough for the lowing cattle—that is filled with hay in a dirty and dusty stable, to witness the light of the World. This is where John begins his story of Jesus; and this is year we receive both light and life.
Permeating from the text of John 1:1-14 are two ideas: light and life. John writes in verses three thru five, “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 1:3-5). Light is a metaphor for several things and is always understood over and against darkness. Sometimes darkness is synonymous with spiritual blindness or a failure to understand what it means to be human. Sometimes darkness refers to evil or those things in our life that try to keep us away from God.
However, Jesus came to dispel the darkness: to remove our sins and trespasses and to help keep us on the path of life and wisdom. Jesus came to be the light for us all; and he does so be reminding us that we have access to his hope, peace, joy, and love. When life doesn’t seem fair, we have the light of hope. When life seems busy and overwhelming and chaotic, we have the light of peace. When life is bogged down with pain, sorrow, and unrelenting grief, we have the light of joy. And when it seems as if life has thrown us in a corner, isolated and quarantined us from what brings us grace, we have the light of love shining within our heart. Jesus truly is the light that dispels our darkness. He is the light that has come down from Heaven.
The Christmas Eve service is probably one of my most favorite services to attend and now offer because in the busyness of the Christmas Season, we find ourselves at peace. Whether this peace lasts a few seconds, a few minutes, or merely the remainder of the service itself, for a brief moment in time we have peace. I can remember attending quite a few Christmas Eve services, but the one that will stick with me is the one that took place last year. I lead my first Christmas Eve service. It wasn’t at my home church. As a matter of fact it was a neighboring church in the area. Of course, at that time, not a lot of churches were offering in person services, but this one church was. As I got ready to pass the Light of Christ to the congregation, I happened to look up and actually take note of who was there. When I looked up I saw my parents, my brothers, some of my aunts and uncles and my grandmother. Everyone else who attended the service was in the parking lot listening to the service on the radio.
It was at that moment that I finally realized how powerful the light of Christ can be. We all, at some point in our life, will find ourselves walking through the valley of darkness. Some of us here this evening could be actively walking in that valley right now. Let me tell you something, although John’s metaphor for darkness is related to evil, despair, hopelessness, and being lost, it is the light of Christ that can guide us out of any form or depth of darkness. With his light, he shows us forgiveness and love and grace. He shows us compassion and kindness and mercy. He provides us with individuals who bring us light when everything else seems dark. He is truly the lamp before our feet and light unto our path (Psalm 119:105). He is the light that brings hope to our life.
From that flame, which flickered in the dark sanctuary, I realized, with my family present, that nothing that this world does can take away the light of Christ that we share with one another on Christmas Eve. Nothing can take away the light of Christ that is in our heart. Nothing can take away the love that endures forever. Nothing can take away the light of life.
When we accept the light of Christ, we find life. John uses the word life forty-seven times in his Gospel; and most of the time it is Jesus who speaks of the life he offers. Jesus offers an eternal life. When we think of eternal life, we often think about what John wrote in his Gospel. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish but will have eternal life” (John 3:16).
For John, eternal life is not just what happens after we die, though it certainly includes life after death. For John, eternal life begins now. The light that has come down from heaven is the light that will give us life starting now. It is a state in which, Adam Hamilton writes, “We are not afraid of death… [but] experience new life in Christ.” Jesus himself put it this way: “I assure you that whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and won’t come under judgment but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24). The life which gives us starts now. And it starts by accepting that Jesus Christ is the true light, which enlightens everyone; that Jesus Christ is the true light that brings us out of darkness; that Jesus Christ is the true light that has come into this world, full of grace, full of love, and full of truth and hope, peace, and joy. Jesus Christ is the true light of our life.
John reminds us that human beings at times love the darkness rather than the light. But he also makes clear that the darkness could not overcome Christ’s light. When we walk in the light of Christ, when listen to, hear, and accept God’s Word, we have life. The time has come to accept the light of Christ. The announcement has been made, Mary gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth and laid him in a manger, and the heavenly host has sang “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace among those whom he favors” (Luke 2:14). The light of Christ—the light of eternity—has entered our life so that we may have a life in Christ. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us…” (John 1:14).
Sharing the Light of Christ:
At this time, we will share the light of Christ with our neighbors by passing them the light of Christ. As you pass the light, say to your neighbor, “The Light of Christ shines for you.” As Adam Hamilton notes, “Jesus came to be the light for us that we, as his followers, might in turn be light for others.”