Sermon for December 29th, 2013 || First Sunday after Christmas || John 1: 1-18 || The Rev. Margot D Critchfield
Today is the fifth day of Christmas, and St. John has something far more brilliant to give us than five golden rings: John has the stunning revelation that long before Jesus was born into human life as a babe in Bethlehem, he was. He was with God in the beginning. He was the very Word itself that spoke life into being at creation. And without him not one single thing came into being—because, John tells us, Jesus was God…there from the get-go.
Now that’s pretty hard to get our heads around. It’s challenging enough to accept that Jesus was the Son of God— sent by God in the form of a baby to free us once and for all from the power of darkness and death.
But to believe that Jesus was God’s own self? In boggles the mind…as well it should! If the totally wild and untamable mystery of God becoming like us so that we might become more like Him was as simple and domesticated as most manger scenes depict it…well, it wouldn’t be much of a mystery at all. And John wants to be clear that God as Jesus, and Jesus as God, is an unfathomable, impenetrable mystery.
John’s gospel is written later than the other gospels, “in the fullness of time” that had allowed for more theological reflection and understanding of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection—and what it all meant. So John’s description of Jesus’ origin is exalted, mystical, cosmic. It’s as if John and his post-resurrection community compared notes, shared stories, took time to process the whole Christ event and chew it over, then finally “got it” in all of it’s mind-blowing majesty: Jesus wasn’t like God, Jesus was God–full of life and light and grace and truth:
“What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.”
Through the person of Jesus, John tells us, God gives life and light to all people—to us—to you and to me. Because through Jesus’ life, death and victory over death, God has shown us firsthand that His light is a light that darkness can never overcome. God’s light, Jesus’ light… the light that has been there from the very beginning of time…has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt the depth of God’s immeasurable love for us and the certainty of His power over evil. God’s light, made manifest as Jesus, extinguished death itself! God’s light, made manifest as Jesus, is “the light [that] shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
And sometimes we just need to remember that the darkness will never overcome it.
So it is good that every year on this first Sunday after Christmas this is the gospel reading appointed for the day. It is good that we gather together in this holy space to exhale one collective post-Christmas breath, and to let the transcendent language of John’s prologue fill us with awe. We bathe in the Light that shines in the darkness, the Word through whom all things were created, the life and light of all people, and once again we are lifted far beyond ourselves, far beyond what will soon be just another Christmas past. We are lifted to a new place – a place where spirits are raised, hearts are healed, and hope is born anew. Hope on which our world depends. Hope that casts out darkness and vanquishes fear. Hope that foretells of possibility and change. Hope that fuels dreams and births new life, new possibilities, new visions of the future. Hope that is life-giving and death-defying.
It takes tremendous courage to embrace this hope. It takes tremendous courage to risk being disappointed, discouraged, or wrong. But when you’re a follower of the Light that darkness can not overcome….when you’re a follower of the One who was with God and was God from the beginning, who overcame death itself, you can not help but hope. It’s the only sensible option, really.
So on this fifth day of Christmas, I urge you to reclaim the gift of radiant, life-giving hope made known to us in Jesus. I encourage you to cast caution aside and embrace this hope with abandon. And I implore you to spread this hope in all the darkest places of your world, where it is so desperately needed.
Because a Light has been born in the darkness and the darkness will never overcome it. Amen.