1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. (NRSV)
|Candlelight by Pablo. Creative commons image on flickr.|
Every year, the American Family Association publishes its Naughty or Nice list of major retailers and how they market to Christmas shoppers.
Nice companies are considered “Christmas-friendly.” Their employees will wish you “Merry Christmas” They include Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, and (not surprisingly), the association’s very own online store.
Naughty companies are those who use the term “Christmas” very sparingly, but do not recognize actually recognize Christmas. These would include Staples, Dollar General, Victoria’s Secret, and (my former employer) Barnes & Noble.
Here you have the battle royale in what is popularly known as “the War on Christmas.” The enemy here is anyone who refuses to say “Merry Christmas” and/or who works to remove anything related to Jesus out of the public square.
You can always wage war on Christmas, but can you really wage war on Christ?
Reading the New Testament, you know people certainly do try. The religious authorities constantly harass and persecute Jesus until they successfully hand him over to the Roman authorities with the help of Judas Iscariot. They crucified him but he didn’t stay dead. Later, these same authorities would work to keep a lid on the early church, but to no avail.
And it’s important to bear in mind that even Satan is unsuccessful in his attempts to lure Jesus into sin. The demons see Jesus, and they run for the hills.
In today’s Gospel, John speaks of Jesus in this way:
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it”
In other words, no one can successfully win a war against God taking on flesh and dwelling among us in Jesus Christ, full of grace and truth.
You can reject Jesus as the Messiah; you can have his disciples put to death; you can make Christmas and Christianity illegal; but that’s as far as you can go.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it”
But how do you keep the faith when things are the way they are in the world? I don’t know about you, but I see a whole lot of darkness…
- 62 million people around the world can be called refugees; particularly those fleeing war and butchery in Syria.
- Employment is down, drug overdoses are up.
- The country is bitterly divided against itself in a number of ways, and we’re all anxious about what the new year will bring.
What’s more, is that Christmas brings you face-to-face with losses and hardships. If it hurts, it always hurts worse at Christmas.
No matter what you believe, darkness is real—and darkness makes it hard (if not impossible) to see God.
But this is why Jesus comes! He comes into the darkness to be the light for all people. God is revealing Jesus to you today, so that you will stake your life on the promise that the darkness cannot and will not overcome the true light. In Christ, light is stronger than darkness, love stronger than hate, and life stronger than death.
This morning, God shines the light of Christ to you so that when Christmas is over and the strings of lights are taken down, you will see the light of Jesus out there, shining still…
Faith is crying out to Jesus in the darkness, confident that Jesus will light your way. Faith means living in expectation for Jesus to come to you in your hour of greatest need.
But faith is also daring to go out into the darkness—because God’s children are out there, suffering. Jesus sends you out to light you up with grace and love, which is how he eradicates darkness.
After all, Jesus never said a word about people celebrating his birthday. He was too busy loving the least and the lost. He was too busy destroying darkness with God’s word of grace.
So maybe instead of trying to fight back the War on Christmas, we need to join Jesus in his war on darkness. This is what Jesus was against—not people or beliefs, but darkness, despair, and death.