Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sermon: John 1: 4-5 Life and Light


You can tell when it’s getting close to Christmas. The days are getting shorter, nights get longer, and the darkness is with us. As they used to say at home ‘the nights are drawing in’. Darkness. The nights seem so bleak, without hope. If you’re caught outside at night, it’s hard to find your way.

[ I remember one time a few summers back I went out for a walk with a friend, but went a bit too far out into the country from Dromore, and so it was dark by the time we were coming back - it was hard to find our way along the road. ]

That’s why we always look forward to getting the Christmas tree up in our house - the decorations, and especially the lights brighten up the room. It’s also why the big towns and cities make such a fuss about the official switching on of the Christmas lights, with the big celebrities lined up to press the button. For example, the big celebrity this year in Belfast was, erm, Bob the Builder... (maybe not then!)

This evening, to help brighten the dark church building, we’ve used lots of candles - giving us light (as well as some festive atmosphere). These are lights shining in the darkness, and yet John isn’t writing about lights on a Christmas tree or candles in a church building.

Each of us are in darkness. We’re far from God, having turned our back on him. Things are bleak - there’s no hope in the darkness, no way out. We can’t see where we’re going. It’s a dangerous place to be.

Yet John says that there is ‘the light’. So what is the light shining in the darkness of this sinful world? What is the light to show us the way?

John writes that the light of men, the light for all people comes from the life in him - in Jesus, the Word, who has made all things. ‘All things were made through him’ so Jesus is the one who gives life. Jesus is the life-giver, the source of life, and his life gives us light.

Outside of Jesus, we have darkness, and because of our sin, death. With Jesus, we have light, and because of his life, we have light.

At Christmas, we celebrate the great news that Jesus who is the light of the world came into the world, he was born. We’ve already sung it tonight: ‘Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting Light’

But we can’t leave him in the manger, for ever the beautiful baby. Jesus came to show the light of life as he revealed God to us as he taught; as he healed the blind and lame; and as he raised the dead. As verse 5 says: ‘The light shines in the darkness’

Jesus, the light, was born to die, thirty-three years later, on that cruel Roman cross. The darkness seemed to be triumphing, as the light was seemingly extinguished. Darkness is not just the absence of light, but active evil and rebellion against God’s light and truth. As the words of ‘In Christ Alone’ put it:

There in the ground, his body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain

But death could not hold Jesus. Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, that Easter Sunday, and lives forever! Jesus is not dead - he is alive! The darkness did not win, light has triumphed - the Lord Jesus is King. ‘The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.’

This is the glorious message of Christmas - that the light of the world has come, and has triumphed over the darkness. The question is: Where are you? Are you sitting in darkness, without God and without hope? Everything seems bleak, you can’t see a way through, this Christmas may seem to be a dark time.

Remember that the light of Jesus will defeat your darkness. Look again at that verse carefully: Everything up to now has been past tense. In the beginning was the Word... was, was, was. But in verse 5 we have a change: ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’ John was writing these words long after the resurrection. The light of Jesus continues to shine two thousand years later - The light still shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it - indeed, the darkness will not overcome it.

The very last book of the Bible gives us a glimpse of what heaven will be like. Darkness is finished forever: ‘Night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign for ever and ever.’ (Revelation 22:5)

Jesus says: ‘I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.’ (Jn 12:46). Jesus offers us light, hope and life this Christmas - eternal life with God forever, which we can begin to enjoy here and now, as we trust in him. Will you remain in darkness, or live in the light?

This sermon was preached at the Carols by Candlelight service in St Elizabeth's Dundonald on Sunday 20th December 2009. John 1:1-14.

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