The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day
December 25, 2020
Text: John 1:1-18
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5; ESV). Beloved, these are dark days. An accursed darkness has descended upon us, a darkness, spiritually speaking, not unlike the plague of tangible darkness inflicted on Egypt, a darkness to be felt (Ex. 10:21 ff.). You know this. It is not just the pandemic. It is not just our political turmoil or societal instability. These are but symptoms of the darkness. It is true that you always feel the disease by the symptoms. You feel the uncertainty about the future in the air, the transitive nature of things, things of great weight… nations, governments, freedom, family, the Church. Loved ones divided by chasms of darkness. “You believe what? You voted for who? You didn’t respond to COVID the way I think you should?! You must not care about anyone but yourself! Unlike me. I care about everyone and every righteous cause. You can believe me, because I posted about it on Facebook.” You know the darkness in your own life. Perhaps you have suffered a sickness, or the death of someone close to you, or a broken relationship. And you have your regrets, as we all do. And you know guilt and shame. You know you are full of pride and lust and covetousness and idolatry. And in all of that, the darkness would blind you.
Groping in the dark, we search for light in all the wrong places. Self-righteousness, self-justification, virtue signaling. Laws that will bring us salvation from disease, from low self-esteem, and the bad opinions of others. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve noticed this year, more than any other, an emphasis on the winter solstice, the so-called rebirth of the sun, a turning from the darkness of the longest night of the year to the ever-increasing light. As though the darkness of night is the problem! But it is a deception! In fact, it’s good old-fashioned paganism. This is a symptom, but it is a big one. Having turned away from the true Light which enlightens everyone (v. 9), and having shut Him out, the world turns instead to created luminaries. The sun, the moon, the stars. The conjunction of planets… which was pretty cool, I must admit, although it was decidedly not the Star of Bethlehem, and certainly not the light of the world. It is, though a sign, as are all the heavenly bodies, of the true Light, who created light in the beginning, spoke it into existence, and then assigned the light to these very bodies. And it is He alone who can enlighten us. By His Word. By His Spirit. The symptoms of darkness point to the darkness itself, which is a power. A power once, ironically, named Lucifer, Light Bearer, who removed himself from the presence of the Light by his rebellion against the Light. For a short time, he has been let loose in the world. He sows his darkness in discord and strife, along with his demons who wreak havoc among us. He dragged Adam down with him, and so the whole world. But it is all a sham! He is a nothing! He is a nobody! For what is darkness but the absence of light? And Jesus Christ is the Light of the world. And it is this Light, the Son of the Father, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, wrapped in swaddling cloths, and laid in a manger. He has been born into the world. Where He is, where He shines, the darkness is dispelled. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Oh, the darkness tried. He did his worst. The dragon stood before the woman, to devour her Child (Rev. 12). Possessing a maniacal king to chase the Light from Bethlehem with rivers of infant blood. Assaulting Him in the wilderness, tempting Him to forsake His Father. Opposition from the crowds, the political powers, and religious leaders. Rejection in His home town, His home congregation, even His family. Sweat like drops of blood in a garden, with no help from His sleeping friends. Abandoned by one and all in His hour of suffering. Even His Father. Shrouded in darkness from the sixth hour until the ninth. My God, my God… why?
To defeat the darkness, by tricking it into swallowing the Light. By His crucifixion, the Light did the darkness to death.
And then the Son rose on a bright Sunday morning and exposed the darkness for what he is… a liar! A fraud! A washed-up angel who can go to hell.
But not you. For you are a washed-up human, bathed in the Light, and the scales of darkness have fallen from your eyes. The Light was born for you. He has come to you. His death is for you. His life is for you. And you are in Him, and He is in you. In fact, He makes His home with you. For the Light, the Word, became flesh, and made His dwelling among you. Right here. In this place. Among this people. And you have seen His glory. Glory, as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, which are His gifts to you. It shines forth in His Word as it is read and preached. And then, there He is, in the flesh born of Mary, enthroned on the Altar, your Lord and your God. At one time you were darkness, but He rescued you from that. Now you are light in the Lord, and you walk in Him (Eph. 5:8).
In this world, the darkness may appear to overcome you. That is to say, you still sin and you still suffer. You can only see the truth of the matter as the Light of Christ dwells in you, which is to say, by faith. You know that things are not as they appear. Your sins are forgiven. Your suffering is coming to an end. The whole world thinks death has won with the COVID pandemic. You know better. Christ is born! The whole world thinks the struggle between darkness and light is decided by who is in power at any given moment. You know better. Christ is born! The whole world thinks that it must justify itself, save itself, pass a law to deliver itself from all transgression. You know better. Christ is born! Even as the darkness touches you, as it does and surely will, you know better. Christ is born! He is born for you! When you are tempted to give in to the darkness, sink yourself into the Word, which is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path (Ps. 119:105). Read the Gospel. Pray the Psalms. Call your pastor. Go to Church. And then confess the faith. And as you speak that Light into the void, you shine Christ into every dark and hopeless corner. That is why, whatever is happening now, out there, you are to go forth from this place and wish everyone you meet a “Merry Christmas,” and smile and love and be generous with all the hope and Light that is in you. And that is why you now rejoice and laugh and feast and sing. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
And so, beloved, merry Christmas! Repeat the sounding joy! The angels sing with pious mirth. Why don’t you join them? The days are dark, but the first bright rays have appeared over the horizon. In fact, there they are, on the Altar. Christ has come, and He is coming again. And here He is for you right now. And in His brightness, there is no darkness. There is only eternal Day. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son X, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.