The Light of the World

Christmas 1B’ 20

27 December 2020

John 1.1-18

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

North Little Rock, Arkansas

The Rev. Carey Stone

 

I WILL GREATLY REJOICE IN THE LORD, MY WHOLE BEING SHALL EXULT IN MY GOD; FOR HE HAS CLOTHED ME WITH GARMENTS OF SALVATION, AND HAS COVERED ME WITH THE ROBE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS: IN THE NAME OF THE ONE WHO IS CALLED - WONDERFUL, COUNSELOR, THE MIGHTY GOD, THE EVERLASTING FATHER, THE PRINCE OF PEACE.  FROM THE PROPHET ISAIAH

Today on the 27th of December, after all of the feasting and reveling of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we roused ourselves and tuned into another installment of “virtual church” where Jesus’s birth, as always on this first Sunday after Christmas will probably take center stage, but we wonder if there is anything we will see or hear that’s new, or will it be all too stale and familiar? Sometimes it helps if we can hear a story from a different angle, from a different perspective, and go below the surface, to the heart of the matter where we can get a clearer picture.  

It was the wisdom of God that made sure there were four different angles, from four different evangelists with four entirely different frames of reference in order to provide a complete picture of the Good News of the Gospel. Mark, writing primarily to a gentile audience, was the earliest of the four gospels and is the shortest. Mark does this by skipping the early life of Jesus entirely, instead he quotes the Old Testament prophet Isaiah to let people know that Jesus is the Messiah that was foretold, and from there we are off and running with John the Baptist and the adult Jesus at Jesus’s baptism in the river Jordan. In dramatic and sweeping strokes of the quill he sticks to the facts, and the action is constant.

Matthew on the other hand was a traditionalist and a meticulous former tax man and he wrote primarily to Jewish audience. He takes great pains to maintain historical accuracy and is sure to tie the events in Jesus’s life and teaching to their Jewish roots, and to the fulfillment of Jewish prophecies.

Luke, was a more of a writer and reporter, and was also the only gentile writer of the New Testament. For Luke it is very important to provide and account that was accurate and in chronological order. Luke is who give us the scoop on the characters and events surrounding Jesus’ miraculous birth. As a gentile Luke knew what it was like to be an outsider so he focused on shepherds, Samaritans, and on women giving them prominent places in his gospel.

Today’s gospel reading is the latest and last of the four gospels and was written by John. John was not a historian, or a journalist, but a mystic and theologian. John takes us both beneath the surface of the text and high above the text giving us a satellite picture with a wide-angle lens. He is not so much interested in shepherds and angels or points on the map as he is interested in giving us the cosmic view of what does all of these details mean, theologically and experientially. He comes at it from his prayers and his contemplations of the Divine plan of the ages.

He does this by taking us all the way back to the beginning of creation in words that sound and awfully lot like the first words in the book of Genesis: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Now the word “Word” John used is written with an upper case “W”.   Through the power of the Word all things came to be and to have life. John goes deeper and more metaphorical when he starts talking about Christ being the light: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Then, like a good mystic, John tells the Christmas story in just nine words: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us!”  The Word is not a book, the Word is a person – Jesus Christ!

I like the way the Rev. James Liggett put it: “He who was with God in creation, the one who is God revealing himself to humanity—this one became a person, became flesh—as completely human as you and I. Not God with a people-suit disguise on; not a really good person who God rewarded and made special; not a super angel God created early and saved up for Bethlehem. But a person, who was the Word—who was God’s own self. (A chip off the old block.)” The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. Whether through a shining star over Bethlehem, or as a beam speeding through the galaxies, on this point of light - Matthew, Luke, and John all agree. What else could one really use to describe this Higher Power that’s greater than all earthly or heavenly power?

The dazzling Light of the World shines in our darkness and helps us to see ourselves more clearly, and to see who God is and what God is like. The power of the Word who was and is and is to come, who came as a child into the world so that we can become the children of God. St. Athanasius back in the 3rd cen. says it this way: “He became what we are so that he could make us what he is.”

You want to know why I like hymns better than contemporary choruses because many of them have some great theology. In the second verse of “O Come All Ye Faithful” we find these words:                                                       

God of God, Light of Light, 

Lo! He abhors not the virgin’s womb;

          Very God,

          Begotten, not created

Come and behold him,

Born the King of angels,

O come let us adore him,

Christ the Lord. 

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