The Christmas story we tell most often this time of year comes from the gospels of Matthew and Luke, but my favorite version comes from John’s gospel:
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 all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. [John 1:1-5; 9, NIV]
Light from the Beginning
The way John tells the story of Christ’s entry into the world echoes the biblical account of Creation. Genesis tells us that in the beginning, darkness covered the face of the deep. God’s first act of creation was to speak Light into being. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. [Genesis 1:3] John begins his account of Jesus’ life and ministry by raising the curtain on Act II of God’s creation of the world with True Light coming to humanity.
Light that Shines in Darkness
We don’t often think of slavery, the Holocaust, or terrorist attacks at Christmas, yet these are all times darkness did not overcome the Light. Think of joyful songs slaves sang: When the Saints Go Marching In, O Happy Day, Deep River. Written by a slave trader when he discovered forgiveness, Amazing Grace came out of that same darkness. Stories of Light emerged from the darkness of the Holocaust. The Hiding Place is an example. The ten Boom family, Dutch Christians, smuggled Jews out of harm’s way by hiding them in an upstairs room of their home. In more recent times, we remember stories of public and private heroism in the darkness of the 9-11 terrorist attack on New York City.
Most Christians can testify to the light of Jesus in times of personal darkness. One of the darkest periods in my life was my divorce when my daughter was only three years old. Yet in that time of loss and despair, I grew closer to God. Scripture, especially the book of Job and Paul’s letters, spoke to me in new ways. Friends offered help when I was unable to ask for it. I learned to depend on God for the strength to get out of bed and face each day.
As far back as the time of Isaiah, God promised Light for people living in the darkness of human history: The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:2). God fulfilled that promise by sending Jesus. But even God’s Son had to walk through the darkness of crucifixion and death to reach the Light of Resurrection. Sometimes when I listen to news from across our country and around the world, I feel overwhelmed by deep darkness. That’s when I turn to the Light that shines in my heart, Light the darkness cannot overcome.
A Christmas Prayer
Jesus, thank you for coming into the world, bringing Light into our darkness. Amen.