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Light or Secret? December 25, 2013

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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John 1:1-18

Christmas Day

December 25, 2013

Focus: God gives life to His children.

Function: That the hearers celebrate the true light of the world.

Structure: Bible Study.

Light or Secret?

First and foremost, Merry Christmas!  One of things many people love about Christmastime is all the lights.  Homes are decked out in Christmas lights of all colors, trees are covered in lights.  Some homes flash, others play music.  It’s a wonderful way to set the mood for Christmas.  There are many who will drive around town just to go light seeing.  If that’s you, you’ve probably creeped me out by driving slow past our house in town to see our neighbor’s light display.  They put a lot of work into it!

And if all that isn’t enough, the glory of God’s creation adds to it.  On a sunny day, the light reflecting off the snow is overpowering.  And the beauty of “sun dogs” is quite a sight.  I had never seen it until I moved here.

Our text today is a familiar text, the beginning of the gospel of John.  But maybe it’s text that’s made you scratch your head a few times.  What’s John gettin’ at, why doesn’t he just tell us about Jesus’ birth like Matthew and Luke?  Where’s Joseph and Mary, where are the angels?  Why John, what are you up to?

Without a doubt, John’s opening introduces several key themes that will fill his book, including light.  But, to fully appreciate John’s opening to his gospel, we need to look at his context.  I’m not sure we can fully grasp everything John is saying without knowing about one of the challenges to the early church.

The church in John’s day, the church in the late first century and even into the second, was plagued by the heresy of Gnosticism.  It was especially dangerous, because at this time, God’s church was still in its youth.

Gnosticism’s teaching was this.  There’s only one true existence, the spiritual world, complete with a number of different gods.  One day, one of these gods made a mistake, and the result was a lesser god, who was cast off into the physical world.

The physical world, to them, is nothing.  It’s non-existant, it’s all in your mind.  You and I don’t really exist.  This lesser god, along with his evil minions, then created us, a bunch of people inhabiting the physical world.  Mistakenly, some of us have a spark of light within us.  If we can somehow discover that light, we’ll be freed from this prison and escape to the real world, the spiritual world.  That’s their idea of salvation.

Life is all about obtaining the secret knowledge; it’s the key or the password to unlock that spark of light.  And Jesus, this is where He comes in, Jesus came to give us that secret knowledge so we could be set free.

A group of so-called Christian Gnostics emerged.  They taught that Adam and Eve didn’t really sin by eating the fruit in the garden.  Instead, they were rebelling against this evil god that made them.  They were trying to discover the light and be saved.  The flood of Noah’s day was the minions’ attempt to suppress us.  And daily life is just a distraction from the light.

I hope you can see some of the flaws of Gnosticism.  I hope you realize just how dangerous it was to the church.  So dangerous, in fact, that some of their ideas still dominate in the church today.  If you don’t believe me, when you die and go to heaven, what’s it going to look like?  How many Christians see a dying loved one and say it’s a good thing?  How many of us can’t wait to shed this imperfect body and be spirits?  The physical body is evil, and the spirit is good.  That’s a foundational principle of Gnosticism.  It’s not Christian.  Not in the slightest.

With these teachings in mind, let’s turn back to John’s gospel, to his opening paragraphs.  Turn your worship folder with me and look back at our gospel reading on page 4.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

John begins with this well-known phrase in the church.  God our Father is no evil lesser god.  Jesus, the Son, is no demi-god.  The holy Trinity, the Three-in-One, has and always will be.  They were created by no one.

  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

Jesus Christ, true Son of God, true God and true man, was there in Genesis chapter 1.  Jesus has been there since the beginning.  And not only that, Jesus was involved in the act of creation.  Our Lord and Savior helped make us.

In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, we have life.  God breathed life into Adam.  He is the giver, the source of all good and all life.  The Bible does set up this difference between light and dark.  It’s a metaphor, it’s a play on words to help us understand.  In a dark room, when you light a candle, the light it gives illuminates the room.  You can see again.  We understand how that works.

The Bible doesn’t hesitate to call Jesus the light, because He takes a world that is lost, a world of sin and hate, and brings us back to God.  He helps point the way.  More than that, He leads the way.  Have you ever been in the darkness so long that when you finally see the light again, it’s overwhelming?  You can’t see it’s so bright.  You’re dazed and confused by it.  Think about walking out of a movie theater, or someone turning on the lights while you’re sleeping.  The darkness doesn’t understand the light.

There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.  He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

 

God’s Word is full of prophets, full of men who call us to repentance.  Like our parents before us, and their parents before them, we sin and we go astray.  We are given the gift of life and instead we choose to live it our own way.  We reject God and do what we want to do, we engulf ourselves in the pleasures of the sinful flesh.

John was one of these prophets, a man calling us back to repentance.  We know from other gospels that John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way for the Lord.  He was sent ahead of Jesus to level hills and valleys, to make straight paths.  In other words, he was sent to open our hearts, our minds, and our ears, so that when Jesus came, we’d be willing to listen.  The light, the true light of Jesus Christ, allows us to see in the darkness.  In the midst of a world filled with sin and darkness, Jesus’ light calls us to repentance, forgives us, and leads us to new life.

He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.  He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.

Just as the darkness doesn’t understand the light, sinners don’t understand perfection.  We couldn’t see Jesus by ourselves.  We couldn’t return to God by ourselves.  He came, and we rejected Him.  He came, and we killed Him.

Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

We understand birth.  Adults know it well.  Children still learn about it at school.  Some even still have to watch that awful video that traumatizes them for life.  But this is different.  This birth is different.  This isn’t the normal means of human birth.  This is new life.  This is the birth that happens at the font.  This is the birth that happens when water meets the Word upon our forehead.  This is the birth that happens when the Holy Spirit enters into our hearts, creates faith in us.  This is the birth that makes us children of God.

We call it baptism, a washing of water and the Word.  In our baptisms, Jesus has given us the right to be called children of God.  As His children, we are loved.  Our sins are forgiven, our debts washed away.  As His children, we are saved, body and soul.  Whether we face death or not, we will live with God, body and soul, in His kingdom forever.

This Christmastime, I want you to know what John is talking about.  I want you to know that death is not a good thing.  Life is; resurrection is.  And in Jesus Christ, those gifts are yours.

I want you to know that the physical world isn’t evil.  Satan is, sure, but the world isn’t.   When God created, He looked at all He had made and said, “Behold, it is very good.”  Our body and soul are together, not separate.  And though death may split us for a moment, body and soul will be reunited in the resurrection.

I want you to know that God is not evil and that Christ was not created.  He is the source of everything, the source of all good and all life.  Nothing has been created except through Him.

I want you to know that there is no little spark in you.  Born into sin, we are nothing more than sinners.  There’s no chance, no hope for us on our own.  But in God, everything changes.  In Jesus Christ, we have the right to become children of God.  And in the waters of holy baptism, God does just that, He makes us family.

This Christmastime, I want you to know that the babe born in Bethlehem, Jesus the Christ, is your Savior, your Lord, and your King.  By His life, He fulfilled all the laws and the prophesies of old.  By His death, He took away our sins, forgave us, and restored our relationship with God our Father, opening the door for us to become children of God.  And by His resurrection, He conquered death, the devil, and sin once and for all.  The darkness no longer has any power over us.  The physical isn’t evil.  Our bodies and our souls have been restored.  And as God raised Jesus from the dead, so too will He raise us from the dead on the last day.

This Christmastime, I want you to know that the babe born in Bethlehem came to save you.  Not with secret knowledge, but with His holy, precious blood.  You are saved.  You are redeemed.  You are family.

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another.

Jesus Christ is the light of the world.  So whenever you see light, whether it’s the light from the sun, the decorations on your home or Christmas tree, or the light from a light bulb on your ceiling, think to Jesus.  Remember your Savior.  And remember the words of John: “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.”  That light is Christ, the babe in Bethlehem, the reason for the season of Christmas.  Brothers and sisters, Merry Christmas!

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