Light and Life (Sermon from the Carol Service)

John 1: 1-14

So here we are…..Carols by Candlelight….. Christmas is almost here……

I wonder are you ready yet?

Have you sent all your cards?
Have you bought and wrapped all your presents?
Is your tree up and decorated?
Have you got your turkey, are your meals planned?
Have you made arrangements for visiting friends and family?

Cards, presents, trees, food….is this all that Christmas is about?

Tonight as we’ve sung our carols …..Several have talked about light coming into darkness.

I wonder – have you ever experienced complete darkness?

I don’t just mean the sort of darkness we have now,
no – I mean a situation where there is no light, where it’s absolutely pitch dark.

And of course darkness is not just the physical absence of light….. darkness often represents all sorts of other powerful concepts.

Film directors often cleverly use darkness to represent evil, terror, fear and danger.

Think of films like Harry Potter and the battle against Voldemort.
Or Star Wars … with the deadly dark side, Lord Sith and Darth Vader.

It reminds me of a scene from the first Lord of the Rings movie when they must travel under the mountains through the mines,

– Frodo and friends walk in expecting a royal welcome, but instead they find the mine overrun and the dwarfs dead

– and just as they turn to escape, the entrance in front of them caves in and everything goes completely and utterly dark.

There’s no way out, they’re trapped and they’re in complete darkness.

And the film seems to just stop there for a moment…. so we can absorb that blackness, the darkness….. the sheer terror of it grips us.

And as I talk about darkness the effect it has on us is powerful and evocative; it raises all sorts of deep feelings and emotions….

Often we talk of darkness when there’s an end of hope… – when there’s no way out and nothing to look forward to.

We talk of darkness when we’ve lost all sense of joy – when there’s no happiness, nothing to celebrate. Depression is often called ‘the dark night of the soul’.

We often use darkness to describe evil in the world…..war and fighting, genocide and murder, terrorism and abuse.

We may even at times see darkness in our own communities and that can scare us.

And whether we like to hear it or not, we realise that at times darkness penetrates each one of us too. We like to think we are above it, but the truth is we are not. We fall for the darkness as well.

But if darkness is all that, light stands out as the exact opposite.

Light undoes all those things associated with darkness:

light brings hope from despair;
light brings joy for depression;

light brings good in the face of evil; light brings growth and renewal;

light brings life and healing.

That’s why we look forward to the dawning of a new day; why the rising sun brings hope in our hearts and why shining a light brings great joy.

That’s why candle light is so comforting, so uplifting.

You see light drives away darkness. Light illuminates the darkness. The smallest of lights, changes everything.

The reading we’ve just heard from the start of John’s gospel is all about light coming into the darkness.

John’s gospel begins ‘In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the Word was God… [and then a little later on]

‘The word became flesh and lived among us.’ John here is talking about Jesus.

He’s talking about that first Christmas when Jesus was born to Mary in a manger, at the back of an inn, in Bethlehem.

But John wants us to understand that Jesus is more than just a baby born in a feeding trough. John is making the most extraordinary, the most profound claim about Jesus.

This baby in the barn, was no less than God.
God who spoke in creation ‘let there be light’ was now present as a great light for all humanity.

John talks about the word becoming flesh…..Jesus became one of us, human; the creator became a real flesh and blood person, Jesus.

As Jesus lived and grew, becoming a man, he revealed all sorts of things about God – his power over creation and sickness and death.

But most importantly Jesus revealed God’s character – he’s full of compassion,

he’s kind, generous, wise, gracious, he’s slow to anger and swift to forgive;

as John said Jesus is ‘full of grace and truth’.

That’s why John calls him the light, because he’s glorious, dazzling,

distinctive, like light.
Jesus is nothing less than the light of God’s glory shining.

And so for us, if we want to know God, if we want to see him and understand him, we can read the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke or John

– and see in Jesus, God with us.

John goes on to say that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John here is reminding us that when the creator came and lived among us, he wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms.

John puts it like this: ‘He was in the world, and the world came into being through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him’.

John is referring to Jesus’ death. Jesus came to the people he’d made, and chosen for himself. They belonged to him, but they rejected him, betrayed him, tried him and condemned him.

You see Jesus shone his light into their lives. It revealed areas of darkness, shadows, fears, wrong actions and hidden secrets.

Jesus showed life as it really was, there was nowhere to hide. The people around Jesus didn’t like this and so they decided to put the light out.

With help from the Romans they put him to death. And it looked for a while as though darkness had triumphed…. But three days later Jesus rose from the dead.

He didn’t stay dead, how could he – he is the light of the world, he breathed life into all creation, he couldn’t be snuffed out that easily.

But the most exciting thing about this passage is that we are in it too……

‘To all who receive Jesus, to those who believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God.’

You see God wants every person then and now, to be his child.

We don’t have to be born into a particular family;
we don’t need to have rank or status, wealth or intellect.

God dearly loves each of us and values us as we are,
irrespective of how others see us, or even how we see ourselves.

If we accept Jesus we can become part of God’s family and receive peace, love, forgiveness, and acceptance….

benefits which begin in the here and now, and last into eternity.

I began by asking, what is Christmas all about?

Christmas is all about God coming to humanity, as a child, Jesus Christ; a great and glorious light, a light which changes everything.

So tonight …..
if ever you felt like you’ve walked in darkness and despair,

if ever you felt like darkness surrounds you,
if ever you felt like darkness is winning,
if ever you felt like life is hopeless and joyless….

then the birth of Jesus Christ is for you.

Tonight stands an open invitation to accept Christ as a gift this Christmas;

His light and life can transform our lives,
Bringing peace to our souls and giving us a sure and certain hope.

This light, Jesus, changes everything, this light brings freedom.

Amen.

If you’d like to know a bit more about Jesus, please do speak to myself or one of the clergy.