First Presbyterian Church

of Hemet
Light Shines in the Darkness 
Psalm 98, John 1:1-14 
December 27, 2015 
Pastor Sylvia Karcher 
 
While Matthew and Luke begin with Jesus as a baby in a manager, John takes us all the way back to creation and tells us that the one we know as Christ was already with God and was God.  
 
He begins with the very words that begin the whole Bible, “In the Beginning.” Genesis begins, “In the beginning, God.” John begins “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” As we read on it becomes clear that the Word is the very Son of God, the one we know as Christ. We sometimes say, “It’s only words,” but words can be powerful. Its amazing to me that I get to say the words “I now pronounce you husband and wife” and two people become one. Or Judge Warren says the words “Guilty” or “Not guilty” and that changes a person’s life. The word of God has much more power than that. .  
 
John says, “All things came into being through him, Without him was not anything made that was made,” He was not only there when the galaxies were scattered throughout the universe. He had a part in their creation 
 
The Apostle Paul makes this same point in the letter to the Colossians:  
He is the image of the invisible God, …for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, (Colossians 1:15-16) 
 
John continues, saying that this Word, this Christ is the light of all people. And in verse four he says, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” 
 
Have you ever been in complete darkness? Such a thing is difficult to find, in this age of electricity. When we go outside at night we usually see streetlights and porch lights. Even in the “darkness” of our bedroom a few nights ago, I counted eight different tiny lights: on our two electric clocks, our phone, a cell phone, the T.V. two rows of lights that have something to do with the computer, and the nightlight shining in the bathroom. Once in Carlsbad Caverns, our guide turned out all the lights. THAT was darkness. Absolute blackness covered us like a blanket. Even if I’d held my hand an inch from my eye I wouldn’t have been able to see it. It was disorienting; it was frightening. Then the guide turned on his flashlight. What a difference that one beam of light made! The darkness had to give way to the light. We could see again. I could see the dark shapes that were my companions. I could move forward with a degree of confidence.  
 
God created a world of life and beauty and light, but sin has crept in bringing darkness and fear. But thanks be to God, Christ the light still shines; the darkness has not and cannot overcome it.  
 
On Christmas Eve as we left the light of the sanctuary and poured into the courtyard, you may not have noticed the full moon shining down on us. Just so, the light of Christ shines on our lives, making it possible for us to find our way, even when we don’t notice.  
But in verse 14, John goes on to say something that to me is even more startling. This Word, this God, he says, became flesh, became human and dwelt among us. Eugene Peterson in The Message says, he “moved into the neighborhood.” One of my college professors said that the incarnation, the miracle of God becoming human, was a greater miracle even than the resurrection, and I believe it. 
 
Paul describes the incarnation this way:  
Christ Jesus,  
Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant. (Philippians 2: 5-7) 
 
King Edward VIII gave up his throne to marry the woman he loved. 
That’s impressive. But of course that’s nothing compared to what Christ did. Our choir sang an anthem recently that tries to express this miracle. 
 
1. Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour, 
All for love's sake becamest poor; 
Thrones for a manger didst surrender, 
Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor… 
 
2. Thou who art God beyond all praising, 
All for love's sake becamest man; 
Stooping so low, but sinners raising 
Heavenwards by thine eternal plan. (Frank Houghton) 
 
Because of our limitations, God became human so that we may finally see God. In Jesus, God becomes accessible to us. The eternal God became finite and vulnerable in order that we can know him in a new and personal way. By coming to us Christ shows us God truly loves us, and that our lives matter to God. There is no worry too small, no challenge too great, that God is not eager to share it with us. (David Lose, “Christmas Continued”In the Meantime blog)  
Someone has said that we think there are two categories—God and humans. But there are three: God, humans, and sub-humans. We have too much darkness in us to be truly human. Until Christ comes. He both shows us what it means to be truly human and, if we accept him, begins to transform us. He gives us the power to try to become like him.  
 
John says even more. In verse 12 he says that as we receive Christ, As we come into the light, we are given the right, the power, to become God’s children. Think of it, Christ became human so that, not only can we become truly humans, we can also become God’s children.  
 
Now look at verse 6. Into this exalted hymn about our awesome God, John the Baptist makes a surprising entrance. John was witness to the light of Christ. Later in John Jesus says John was a burning and shining lamp. Notice, I lamp doesn’t create its own light. It receives light from another source; then it shines. That’s what we can become. We have been loved and chosen, Christ is changing us, so we can pass on the experience, not hoard the experience. We too can become witnesses, On Christmas Eve the light from the Christ candle led us out of the sanctuary and our little candles were lighted from it—a symbol that we wanted to be witnesses, we wanted take the light of Christ into the world. 
 
 
Frederick Buehner tells this story: His friend took part in a Christmas pageant as the rector of an Episcopal church somewhere. The manger was down in front at the chancel steps where it always is. Mary was there in a blue mantle and Joseph in a cotton beard. The wise men were there with a handful of shepherds, and of course in the midst of them all, the Christ child was there, lying in the straw. The nativity story was read aloud by my friend with carols sung at the appropriate places, and all went like clockwork until it came time for the arrival of the angels of the heavenly host as represented by the children of the congregation, who were robed in white and scattered throughout the pews with their parent 
 
At the right moment they were supposed to come forward and gather around the manger saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men," and that is just what they did except there were so many of them that there was a fair amount of crowding and jockeying for position, with the result that one particular angel, a girl about nine years old who was smaller than most of them, ended up so far out on the fringes of things that not even by craning her neck and standing on tiptoe could she see what was going on. "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will among men," they all sang on cue, and then in the momentary pause that followed, the small girl electrified the entire church by crying out in a voice shrill with irritation and frustration and enormous sadness at having her view blocked, "Let Jesus show!” 
 
There was a lot of the service still to go, but my friend the rector said that one of the best things he ever did in his life was to end everything precisely there. "Let Jesus showl" the child cried out, and while the congregation was still sitting in stunned silence, he pronounced the benediction, and everybody filed out of the church with those unforgettable words ringing in their ears. (Frederick Buechner, “Let Jesus Show”, from Secrets in the Dark) 
 
How can we let Jesus show? We can remember how he lived, how he loved, and what he did, and we try to live and love and act that way, so that the light might continue shining on in even the darkest of places Howard Thurman’s wonderful poem “The Work of Christmas” illustrates how our lives can share and spread the light of Christ.  
When the song of the angels is stilled, 
when the star in the sky is gone, 
when the kings and princes are home, 
when the shepherds are back with their flocks, 
the work of Christmas begins: 
to find the lost, 
to heal the broken, 
to feed the hungry, 
to release the prisoner, 
to rebuild the nations, 
to bring peace among the people, 
to make music in the heart. 
Let Jesus shine. 
Amen