Summary: Out of the darkness that surrounded the first Christmas, God brought the LIGHT.
Introduction: [“Flicker” video from Sermonspice.com]
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:1-14 (NIV)
The epic battle between dark and light is one we are familiar with. It fills our movies from Star Wars to Lord of the Rings to the classic James Bond films to the old westerns starring John Wayne and Gary Cooper. It fills our books, our TV shows and our legends and myths. Good versus bad. Dark versus light. And in most of the stories, the good guys…the light…wins. Sure there are moments when we worry. Moments when it looks like the darkness will overtake the light, snuffing it out and leaving the world shrouded in perpetual night, but then out of the overwhelming darkness the light flickers back to life. It grows until it shatters the darkness bathing the world in it’s life giving warmth.
We love those stories. We love to watch the battle of light and dark because we know that…in most of the stories…the light prevails. This morning, as we finish exploring the dark side of Christmas I want to conclude our series with this truth. THE LIGHT DOES INDEED PREVAIL. The LIGHT comes out of the darkness, shattering that darkness…giving life to those who choose to accept it.
This morning, I want to take a few minutes and look at the darkness that seemed to engulf the Jewish people...and the whole world…that first Christmas. I want to look at how dark it seemed to be and how permanent that darkness must have appeared to those who were living in the midst of it…but I also want to look at the light that came from the darkness…the Light that brings life to us all if we choose to accept it.
Movement 1: Darkness
Review of themes previously covered
For more than 400 years leading up to the birth of Christ, the Jews had known despair. The Babylonians had conquered them, the Persians had conquered them, the Greeks had conquered them, the Ptolemic Dynasty, followed by the Seleucids Dynasty had conquered them. They had a brief moment of hope when they overthrew Antiochus Ephiphanies, but then their own people oppressed them until finally Rome conquered them and placed Herod on the throne as the king of Israel. Despair hung heavy on the Jewish people, hope was all but extinguished.
Mary and Joseph, the young couple at the center of God’s plan for redemption, had to deal with shame. Mary was pregnant out of wedlock. Joseph had chosen to accept her shame and taker as his wife. If the people of Nazareth knew the story, it would be a tough life for both Mary, Joseph and their unborn child.
But Mary and Joseph weren’t alone in their shame. The people of Israel wore the shame of a conquered nation like a cloak. God’s chosen people under the rule of a pagan gentile, one who’s army had slaughtered the priests as they went about their sacred duties.
Mary and Joseph wrestled with the frustration of a long journey to register for the Roman census. They dealt with housing accommodations and paying taxes and the birth of a child away from home, ultimately in a stable of some sort. I’m sure their frustration was great.
Israel too faced frustration at this time. The Census effected the entire nation. The taxes were unbearable, the Roman army was everywhere. Frustration had become a way of life for the people of God.