The First Light
“Who has been eating my porridge and how has been sitting in my chair?”
What a strange thing to say thought Goldilocks. So she rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. That’s when she heard some footsteps coming towards her.
“Hey” a voice cried out, “who is sleeping in my bed?”
Goldilocks turned over and jumped out of bed! Standing there were three bears. A mother bear, a daddy bear and baby bear! Goldilocks was terrified and she ran out of the house and didn’t stop running until she got home.
Did I get that one right? Is that how the story goes?
Did I miss something?
Did I start at the end and skip the beginning?
The First Light – Audio Sermon
That sounds like what is happening in our passage from John’s gospel. We read the beginning of John 1 today which is really another way of describing the birth of Christ. The only problem is we celebrated the birth of Jesus a week and a half ago! What are we doing reading about it again for?
It seems like we are going back to the beginning again.
Of course this is a Sunday that is all about beginnings isn’t it? This is the first Sunday of the New Year. We stand on the threshold of new idea’s, resolutions and goals. Today is also epiphany when the Wise Men came and worshiped Jesus. They followed a start in the sky to find him, they followed the light.
Today’s passage is all about light. In fact today’s passage is one of the most poetic in scripture. John’s introduction to Jesus is breathtaking.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John evokes images of Genesis which starts with those same three words: In the beginning. God created everything simply by speaking and here John reminds us that Jesus is the Word. To borrow from theologian James Howell “Jesus is the primal utterance of God, the Word behind the words.”
Yet, John tells us that Jesus came into the world and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.
It’s a damaging statement that requires careful examination. What does it mean to not know Jesus? What is it like to not accept him?
John evokes a lot of powerful images out of this short passage.
- Knowledge of Christ
- True light that enlightens
- Grace upon Grace
These images are interrelated; they play upon and build upon one another.
Being Epiphany I want to spend some time talking about the image of light. What does it mean and how do we understand it through this passage?
The word light is referenced six times in this passage. Perhaps most poetically when we read “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
What is darkness?
Darkness is nothing. You can’t do anything with darkness. You can’t turn darkness on or off. You can’t manipulate it or observe it. In order to do effect darkness you first need to do something with light because light is the only thing that exists. Darkness is the absence of light. At night when it gets dark it isn’t because the sun goes out. It is just blocked for a time and will return.
We live in a world that has no absolutes. Where belief in anything is hard to come by. We don’t fully trust in anything because we have witnessed so many we trusted disappoint us. Faith in this generation is hard to come by. Many people, too many people, live in darkness. They aren’t willing to trust the light.
Darkness is where we find ourselves when we forget about Jesus, when we leave God behind. That’s when what we call sin surrounds us and clouds our vision. Focus on the light, focus on Christ and the darkness is kept at bay. Add your light to Christ’s light and the darkness gets pushed back. Jesus Christ is the light that does not go out and which does not give up.
I am a fan of Tolkien’s books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. In these books we find many images of good and evil, light and darkness. Much of what Tolkien experienced during the War made its way into these books. I find in these books a great deal of common wisdom and a great deal of paraphrase of what we find in scripture.
One such quote from Gandalf is:
Small acts of kindness and love, that is what it means to be the light. If we look the life and ministry of Jesus we can see that throughout the gospels what we are reading about when Jesus heals and teaches, when he visits with friends are small acts of kindness and love. That is what it means to be light in the world. When we see Jesus and accept him, when we walk in the light with him this is what we are being asked to do. To follow in the Way of Christ, to live as Christians, is to humbly offer acts of kindness and love.
When we think about light and darkness we recognize that the further we are from the light the darker it does get. We also associate heat with light and cold with darkness. I suppose we need to decide where we want to sit? Do we want to sit in the light and enjoy the warmth of the sun on our skin? Or do we prefer to sit inside, in the darkness where it is cold?
Of course there are risks as well aren’t there. To live in the light, to be people of the light, to help bring the light of Christ to the world can be challenging. We may even find ourselves in the hot seat for standing up for what is important based upon our understanding of the gospel. So there are risks for standing in the light, just as there are risks for standing in the darkness.
Why do we live in the light?
We do so because when we live in the light of Jesus Christ we receive grace upon grace. Through Jesus Christ we receive grace and truth. We are brought into the light and surrounded by the glory of Jesus Christ.
As you step into the New Year, a year full of hope and promise, remember to walk in the light. Allow God’s first Word to light you path. May all your beginnings be illuminated by light and grace of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Text: John 1: 1-18