A sermon on John 1.1-14
I learned more about Jesus in the first fifteen minutes of a New Testament class than I had ever learned before.
More than 23 years of sermons, and Christmas programs,
of Bible school, and mission trips...
Not that these weren't all meaningful, but this, this was different.
Class. Day 1.
The professor had barely made it into the room,
shrugged off his coat, and silently wrote two words on the board.
He sat down, folded his hands, and after a moment simply said, "Well, fill it in."
One by one, students got us, grasped the chalk, and wrote synonyms for "Jesus" around the initial two words.
Many of the answers were exactly what you'd expect.
Many of them were the same things we say here;
Jesus is... Messiah.
Jesus is... Emmanuel.
Jesus is... Son of Man.
God's only Son.
Part of the Trinity.
Lord and Savior.
Some weren't as common;
Jesus is... a hippie from the Middle East.
A political radical.
A victim of the death penalty.
But the one that stuck with me,
the one that had the biggest impact on how I understand Christ was;
Jesus is... not finished.
The light shines in the darkness.
Our reading, on this Christmas morning, from John doesn't include any of our favorite Christmas story characters.
Neither does the reading from Isaiah (52.7-10), or the Psalms (98), or Hebrews (1.1-12).
There's no magi, no shepherds...
There isn't even mention of Joseph or Mary.
So why, you might be asking yourselves, are we reading this on Christmas?
Because if the birth story of Jesus contains the "Who," and the "What," and that "When," then John 1 is the "Why."
John starts his gospel off with three very familiar words:
"In the beginning."
I think, perhaps, we miss just how bold that is.
Everyone hearing John's gospel first hand knew the first words of Genesis.
They acknowledged the weight of the words, "in the beginning."
John not only wanted to invite the comparison and the parallels to creation,
he required it.
John used the opening, "In the beginning" as a way of telling us that this is a new creation.
The world that comes after this won't be the same as the world that was before is.
The people of God had gone so far off the grid that the only way to reach them was with something bold and radical.
Something like... becoming human.
The light shines in the darkness.
Throughout the Advent season, during our mid-week services, we used the liturgy from Holden Evening Prayer.
After the message and reflection is given, it is concluded with John 1.5, "The light shines in the darkness. And the darkness did not overcome it."
We recite this passage because it is, in itself, it's own testimony to the life of Jesus Christ.
It is widely accepted that John's gospel came about somewhere between 90 and 100 CE.
I only mention this because it's important when you realize that John wrote this 5th verse in the present tense.
He did not write, "The light has shone in the darkness."
He did not write, "The light will shine in the darkness."
He wrote, "The light shines in the darkness."
Not only is this written in present tense,
it's written in an ever-present tense.
That is to say, it's written to stand true whenever and wherever it's said.
Including some of the worst times in human history.
The Holocaust- The light shines in the darkness.
The dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki-The light shines in the darkness.
The attack on the World Trade Center-The light shines in the darkness.
The Black Plague-The light shines in the darkness.
The Slave Trade-The light shines in the darkness.
The Attack on Pearl Harbor-The light shines in the darkness.
The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ-The light shines in the darkness.
Throughout all of these and so many other tragedies human beings have experienced-The light shines in the darkness.
And yet, throughout all of these, the darkness did not overcome it.
Last night as the Christmas Eve service, Pr. Sue talked about what is, and what is not yet.
And Jesus was,
And Jesus will be...
the light that shines in the darkness.
The light that the darkness did not,
Because Jesus is...