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Too Much Light: When Christmas Doesn't Mean Much

by El Jefe'

based on John1:1-14

The light of Christ shines in the darkness of the world. Often the light is not seen because too much Christmas or over abundance has blinded us to the needs of the world. I have heard it again this Christmas…"I'll be glad when this is all over. There are just too many parties, too many gifts to purchase." You can think of your own. I believe that this is why there are so few of us here today. The season of Christmas has burned us out once again. Psychologists tell us that life's meaning is the first to go with burn-out, and I wonder if we haven't lost the meaning of Christmas in our lives? I want to talk to those of you for whom Christmas doesn't mean much today, the first Sunday after Christmas. According to our church calendar, we are still in the Season of Christmas, but for many, Christmas if over. And that is OK, for we certainly cannot live the pace we have been living, nor can we continue to eat the rich food we have been eating, nor spend the money we have been spending. We are ready to return to normalcy. But there must be something we can take from this holiday season…this holy season where we have heard the proclamation that God is with us in Jesus Christ as the hope of the world. I think there is, and that is why I am here today, and I would venture to guess that is why you are here as well. I have chosen to use the scripture from Christmas day on this day three days later. It is John's account of the birth of Jesus, and it is unique in its presentation. John has put away the symbols of Christmas in his telling of the story. There is no manger in Bethlehem, no shepherds, innkeeper, nor animals. In fact, there is no mention of Mary and Joseph, nor even mention of the Christ child. John uses the symbols of light and dark to tell his story.

Read John 1:1-14

With these words, the Apostle John begins his telling of the birth of Jesus Christ. It is unlike the other Gospel stories of Jesus' birth, for it does not so much tell a story as it paints a picture with light and dark contrasting images. Reading John is much like standing before a masterpiece, perhaps one created by Michelangelo, and reacting with the heart and the emotions rather than the head. This portrait of Jesus comes from a time when all things came into being with a Word. A primeval time when light and dark contrasted in a void of nothingness, and life was created. And the Word was the light and from this light, life came into being. John's portrait takes us to stellar heights and we have a vantage point much like the astronauts who view the earth from space. Looking at the earth we see the reflected light of the sun shining in the dark void of space. The light of the sun gives life where there was none before. John takes us to this lofty vantage to tell us that what has happened is no mere common occurrence, but the greatest and most wondrous event in all of history. John's telling of the birth of Jesus begins at the beginning, before there was life, before there was a nation called Israel, before there was a garden called Eden. As a boy my dad would take me outside on a cold winter evening to view the stars. We would take with us our Boy Scouts of America star chart so that we would be able to recognize the constellations. I grew up outside of New York City and we could see the lights of that great city in the distance. We had to look west to be able to view Orion and Gemini because the lights of the city would obscure our vision. When I return to the place of my childhood there is no view of the stars because the City has grown into the suburbs and the light has overcome the darkness. Sometimes, we forget how wonderful is the coming of Jesus because we are blessed in so many ways or overcome with the rush of the season. The Light of Christ has indeed overcome the darkness of life. I hope we do not take the blessings for granted in such a way as to dull our senses to God's wondrous love. In our Christmas rush, have we ignored the darkness around us; the suffering, the prisoner, the hospitalized, the homeless, the hungry, the oppressed? For if we are blinded by the light, how will we see God's light when he comes. This is a call for us all to acknowledge and give thanks to God for his creation, incarnation, and salvation

6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

We don't stay in this surreal place for too long. John is quick to place the birth of Jesus in its proper context, which is in the world with humanity. With the coming of John the Baptist, the story becomes a reality. As the light of the sun is reflected by the earth, so the light of the Son of God is reflected in John. He came as a witness to testify to the light for the purpose of all who saw the light to come to a belief in Jesus. The true light was coming into the world. With the introduction of John-the-Baptist we are placed within the context of the People of Israel. God who was in the beginning is also with His people today. In Robert Fulgham's book, "It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It" he tells the story of a philosophy professor asked to answer the question: What is the meaning of life? In response, the professor relates a story of his own growing up during the war -- of finding a broken piece of mirror from a German motorcycle. As a boy, he would often make a game of reflecting light into dark places with the mirror As an adult, he recognized his childish game as a metaphor for what he might do with his life. "I am not the light, nor the source of the light, but light is there and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it there. That," he concluded, "is the meaning of my life."

10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

Indeed, the Word was in the world. The Word, which created the world, shone the light of truth throughout history. The Word was with Adam and Eve in the Garden. Yet our first parents chose not to stay in the Garden with him. The Word came to Noah who obeyed and built an ark because the rest of the world choose not to recognize him. Despite their doubt, Abraham and Sarah were selected to be the parents of the Chosen People of God who were chosen to provide the context for the birth of Jesus into the world. Moses was given the Law when God wanted to more precisely define his relationship with the Children of Israel, but the people worshiped idols instead. Then the people wanted to be like other nations, and so they appointed a king to rule over them. This led to great suffering, warfare and oppression, so the prophets were sent to speak the Word to the people of a corrupt and unbelieving generation. The light of God finally shone in the world through the birth of Christ Jesus. This light still shines and is available to all. The light given at Christmas is a powerful light enabling all to become children 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.

And so, God sent his Son. John says the Word became flesh and lived among us in glory. We who have seen the light are called to belief, and to receive the power to become his children. We are also to be reflectors of the light into the dark places of the world. In our world of contrasting light and dark we often seek to we strike a balance? Don't know if we should, or even if we can, for life has its seasons of light and dark, winter and summer. The season of Christmas comes, and it goes. It would serve us and the kingdom of God to remember that in times when blessings abound, others have needs. And when we find ourselves in places of darkness, it is important to remember that Jesus Christ the Light of the World has come! We can put away the symbols of Christmas without putting away the meaning of Christmas. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth." I believe this is a call to tell the story of salvation year round to a world needing to hear the truth that Jesus brings. As reflectors of God's light we are called to shine light into the darkness. We have been so blessed, and can indeed be a blessing to our world. Where is the need in your world, community, and family? If there is anything we could take from this Christmas is that God is with us and so we are to be with those who in darkness need to experience this wonderful light. In your times of light and in your times of darkness this coming year, remember this. We who bear the name of Christ can bring his light into the world. Wherever people are languishing in the darkness, we can reflect the light of hope.


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Frank Schaefer, for JavaCasa Resources and the Desperate Preacher's Site, 1999