Delight in the Light

                                                  

John 1:1-14                                                                          Christmas Day

Elizabeth M. Deibert                                                           December 25, 2016

 

We are here to delight in the good news of Christmas Day!   Christmas has layer upon layer of cultural tradition, but you are here, because you or someone you love encouraged you to be here to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas.   The great news of the incarnation is that God has redeemed humanity by living within our limitations.  God decided to accept the limitations of being human, the frailty, the weakness, the suffering – that’s what God decided to take into God’s own self.   For God to be born in human flesh is a most amazing willingness to submit to weakness.  

Wesley, who played Jesus last night, is unable to speak, only able to cry to let his wishes be made known.   It is into that weakness that God came.  The God who created the universe was willing to enter into the helplessness that we see in infants and in the sick and dying.   The fullness of divinity was crammed into a human being along with all that it means to be human.   And likewise, Christ took the fullness of humanity into the Triune dance of God’s divinity, giving us by the power of the Holy Spirit more capacity than we can even imagine.   I think the very power of this event is the reason we keep layering tradition upon tradition on this holiday.   We know in our souls that it deserves our biggest and best celebration, and sometimes when we should be focused on the higher purposes of hope, peace, joy, and love, we layer Christmas with more sugar, and shining objects, but don’t we see why this is so compelling….there is no sweeter day than the day Jesus was born.  Sometimes we drive around looking at Christmas lights and we chuckle to think how much time people work on Christmas lights – kind of like Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation movie.   But there’s something about the desire to light up the world that has its origins in this text we are reading today.  

John’s Gospel is the mysterious Gospel.   It is the non-synoptic, not similar to the others.    John begins with speaking of the Word.   The opening of John’s Gospel sounds a lot like the opening of Genesis – the creation story.     

Hear the Gospel:

NRSJohn 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14 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.

No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known. (Joh 1:18 NRS)

There is nothing more miraculous than the development of a child.  That the cells would multiply and that noses, and toes, and eye lashes, and internal organs would all come together as they do perfectly 95% of the time in viable pregnancies.   This is why I have absolutely no trouble affirming the miraculous birth of Jesus by the Holy Spirit, because it is easy to believe God can put divine and human chromosomes together because even an ordinary baby is so amazing.  

What has come into being was life and the life was the light of all the people.

It is not a temporary condition or thirty-three-year experiment on the part of God. The real Word really became real flesh. This is the content of the gospel.  This is the miracle of Christmas. It is through entering into our flesh that Jesus reveals to us who God actually is, has been, and will be. It is through plunging deeply into the weak, limited realities of our existence in this world that Jesus restores us to that for which he created us. It is in this unlikely way that he is our true light.

Apart from God’s full entrance and submission to our flesh, our frailty, God is not really with us.  Correspondingly, understandings of the incarnation that compromise on the full divinity of Jesus Christ fail to convey that it is truly God we know in Christ.  No theological insight has exercised more influence in shaping Christian doctrine than that the Word—known to us in Jesus Christ—was God. At the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, the church affirmed that Jesus Christ is not simply like God the Father, the first person of the Trinity (homooisios), but is of the very same substance as the Father (homoousios).

With John, the church concurred that this particular human being is not only godlike, but actually God, says Presbyterian theologian Cynthia Rigby (Feasting on the Word)  All other Christian doctrines are premised on this crucial truth.   But this is not a day to be long-winded about Christian doctrine but to glory in the goodness of the One who joined us here, who brought light to our darkness.   This is the day to delight in the light, to rejoice is the truth that illumines the whole earth.

Today is truly the day to be like children in wonder, to revel in joy, to put aside all our adult worries about the troubles of the world, and just for a day to rest in this delight – that God became a beautiful baby boy, who helped us not only to see the truth, but gifted us with truth that is ours, whether we see it or not.  

The light is shining in your darkest night.   Even if your eyes are closed to the light, even if your circumstances have put a dark cloud in front of the light, even if there is nothing but darkness in one part of the world, the light is shining somewhere on the other side of the world.   As I went to see Betsy in ICU after five months of complications in hospitals and rehab units, and Judi, facing a third bladder surgery in a year, as I have prayed for those of you who are going through a profound grief this Christmas, a first or second Christmas without someone you dearly love, I became keenly aware of how much we need to told and told again that the light still shines in the darkness of night.  

What would we do without the light of Christ?  How could we manage the suffering of this present time, the conflict and despair of our present future, if we had not the hope that comes when we know God suffers with us and brings light to our darkness.   The very presence of God in our frail flesh, brings light to that weakness and all weakness of mind, body, and spirit.  We are able to delight in the light, to set aside, even if only briefly, any heaviness we feel in the season, because of Christ.    This delight is best experienced as it came to us, in the joy of a newborn child.  

I expect most of you have seen similar videos before but we all need a little childish delight on Christmas morning, so let’s take a moment to enjoy it.   This is a compilation of babies laughing, but the second scene in the video is of a child named Micah, and it was the first laughing baby ripping paper video that went viral.   Here’s the interesting thing.   This video was produced by a father, who had received a rejection letter of some sort – rejected by job or by a educational institution, we don’t really know.   But what we do know is that this child delight in ripping the rejection letter changes his mood. 

God entered into the darkness of all our rejections and despair and gave us the joy of an infant, to show us that the Word which was from the beginning is still creating, still calling, and still leading us into the delight of our union with God.  “What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn't put it out.  (as Gene Peterson translates in the Message.)   The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”   Follow the light, the Word back to your neighborhoods after we conclude the Christ Mass.   Look for the light of Christ shining in the face of a neighbor, and even more, be the light of Christ shining for all the people around you.