Summary: One of the great gifts that God gives us is light--light for our world and our spirits. We celebrate this gift at Christmas
John 1:6-8, 19-38 “The Miracle of Light”
I’m not sure that Thomas Edison had any idea how his invention of the incandescent light bulb would change and revolutionize our lives. Now, we have light everywhere; we find it difficult to escape from light. People call it light pollution. What we think is dark is not really dark. We discover what dark—the absence of light—really is during a total power outage, or when we are in the middle of the desert or on a mountain in the middle of a moonless night. Then the darkness is so thick you can almost feel it, and you cannot see no matter how hard you try.
This experience, which is so rare for us, was common to the people living in the first century. Their only sources of light were the sun by day and oil lamps by night. When they blew their lamps out it was dark—really dark. For a moment imagine what such a world must have been like. Jesus came to this world that was cloaked in darkness. He came as the bright, shining light who cast away the darkness and eliminated every shadow.
Imagine the power of John the Baptist’s words when he came to bear witness to the light. Imagine the power of Jesus who is described in these verses as, “The true light that gives light to every man” (John 1:9). Walking with Jesus, we discover the miracle of light—not a light that enables us to read at midnight, but a light that illuminates our lives.
LIVING IN THE DARK
When I was growing up, Westerns were a popular movie and television genre. There were Roy Rogers, Kit Carson, Wyatt Earp, Batt Masterson, and the Cisco Kid. There wasn’t a boy in my neighborhood—though we were in the middle of a large city—who did not have a trusty six-shooter and lever action rifle. These Westerns had many similar characteristics. One of the most distinctive is the fact that all the bad guys wore black hats, and all the good guys wore white hats.
The gospel of John is similar to the Westerns of old. The writer of this gospel saw everything in terms of black and white. The world existed in darkness—not just physical darkness, but spiritual darkness, too. Jesus was light; he was the light of God. Jesus entered the world to shine brightly and to overcome the darkness that engulfed the world and the lives of humankind.
Darkness is the gospel of John is not benign and harmless. Darkness opposes the light, and it seeks to keep humankind in its power. When darkness wars against the light—especially the light of God—it reveals itself to be an evil force.
THE GROUNDHOG IN US
February 2nd is Groundhog Day. Traditionally these little creatures stir from their restful hibernation to take a peak at the outside world and predict how much longer winter will hold it in its cold clutches. Not liking the light, they scurry back into their burrows for another six weeks or so depending on whether their encounter with the outside world was cloudy or sunny.
By nature, humans are a lot like groundhogs. We do not like the light. When we encounter its full force, we shield our eyes and run for the shade—some respite from the light.
We don’t like the light because it shows us who we are. The experience is very similar to looking in the bathroom mirror when we first arise from a night’s sleep. Our reaction is usually not “Watch out world here I come,” but rather, “my God, I look awful! How did I ever get like this?” The light shows us our sinfulness, but also our giftedness. If we resist the temptation to flee from the light, we begin to see ourselves as God sees us.
The light also enables us to see God. We see God in all of God’s power and glory. We see God’s love and forgiveness. We see God’s presence in our lives and our world. In time, the light wraps itself around us and we experience the comfort, strength and security that the light offers us. As the light bulb changed the world, so God’s light transforms us and alters our lives for the better forever.
John the Baptist identified his role as a witness to testify to the light so that through him others might believe. In a sense, John reflected the light of Jesus.
Advent and Christmas seasons give us the opportunity to discover in new ways the miracle of God’s light in our lives. Yes, we see ourselves and who we really are, but we also see God’s love and forgiveness. Walking in the light we see God’s presence and power in the world. In the light, we can follow John’s examples and bear witness to the light. We can reflect the light so that others might believe.