Psalm 98, Isaiah 9:2-7, Isaiah 52:7-10, Luke 2:1-20, John 1:1-14
On Wednesday, it was the winter solstice, which is the longest night of the year. In our northern hemisphere location, the extended darkness is difficult for many people. There are literally less hours of daylight to experience and we bundle from the cold, so our skin rarely feels the sun’s nourishment. Some of us work jobs that we head to work in the dark, we head home in the dark. The darkness can feel oppressive, lonely, scary, suffocating.
Our world can also feel oppressive and suffocating. It might be the pain we may experience in relationships or when focused on what we hear and see in the news. Darkness takes many forms. Political uncertainty. Talk of an expanded nuclear arsenal. People slaughtered in Aleppo. A Christmas market attacked. Assassinations. Broken relationships. Murder. It is indeed suffocating; the darkness feels as if it is creeping everywhere in ways we could not have imagined.
In this physical and spiritual darkness, the message of advent points us toward light. The message of Christmas is the message of incarnation. It says that the Creator of the universe was not satisfied with watching us hurt ourselves from a distance. The Creator of the Universe did not want to keep seeing humanity choose hatred and violence over reconciliation. The message of Christmas is a puzzling and incomprehensible miracle: God became flesh.
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, generous inside and out, true from start to finish. The Word: the Word that was with God and that was God, the same being that everything was created through and nothing came into being without, THIS same deity became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. What moved in was not as a 30-year-old warrior; not as an adult king with an army blazing, but a tiny, newborn baby.
A tiny baby. If you’ve ever held a newborn, you probably know that it feels like you could break them. And you could break them, realistically, if you didn’t hold them right. Small. Helpless. Weak. Amid all the fighting and all of the horror, God came to us in a way that we wouldn’t have expected and that we almost cannot believe.
What is the message that we are celebrating this Christmas? That God was willing to be here and be with us in this mess. God did not run away; God did not remain aloof – but entered the pain and sorrow of human life. The birth of Jesus is the message of hope, of light. That we are not alone in the darkness, and that a beautiful, unfathomable light emerged from a virgin’s womb, to burn brightly, to grow in love and holiness and sacrifice.
This evening, we had two gospel readings: a more traditional nativity passage in Luke and the passage in John 1. Both detail the miraculous entry of God into the world.
I think a special aspect of John 1 is that it harkens back to Creation, back to Genesis. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. In the beginning, God created… God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. At creation, light emerged, which was the source of life. Our sun nourishes and sustains us. John is quite clear that the incarnate One, Jesus, also brings light that nourishes and sustains us – He is where our life, our hope, our energy comes from. John says, “What has come into being in [Christ] was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it. God said, “Let there be light.” Sisters and brothers, Christmas is a time to turn our faces to the light of the Christ child, the tiny baby who came, lighting up the darkness, guiding our feet to the path of peace.
Jesus, be our source of strength and hope; tiny baby, light up the darkness of hearts and our world.