What we hear today in John’s Gospel is the other telling of the Christmas story. Not the one we heard read at our Christmas services that forms the basis of our traditions and rituals. Not the one that is so familiar to many of us, at least in its original King James form, that many of us can recite it by heart from Sunday school days. That one is such an important story to us, a formative story. It talks about all those events of the birth of our Lord Jesus in such a human way, and it reminds us that Jesus came among us as a tiny and vulnerable human baby in the most humble way, and that he came because Mary said yes to God’s request, and because Joseph was willing to be part of her life.
But John has some different things to tell us in his version of the Christmas story. John goes all the way back to the beginning because he wants to remind us just exactly who it is we are talking about here in this Christmas story….”in the beginning was the Word…or the Logos…the creating, revealing, acting, mind of God….way before the stable or the shepherds, way before Mary and the angel, even long before Isaiah first foretold it. In the beginning, because even then God so loved the world, the Incarnation had already begun.
John says in his Christmas story, the Word – who was with God from the beginning – The Word who is God became flesh and lived among us, or in another translation, pitched his tent among us…sounding perhaps like he is planning to stay. And he says, “From his fullness we have received grace upon grace.” Gifts. Unasked for. Undeserved. Just simply given for the love of it. And John has more to tell us in his Christmas story. “No one,” he says, “has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart who has made him known.” And this of course is one of the wondrous gifts of the Incarnation – in Jesus we see God, and in coming to know Jesus and living a life of discipleship in loving relationship with him, we as mere humans can become more like who God is. It is the great both/and of the Incarnation. In Jesus we see who God is, and we can be as he gives us the power to become, as John says, children of God. We can become more like Jesus, and in becoming more like, in acting more like Jesus, we can show the world that wondrous light of God’s amazing love for us.
He is the light, the one who has come – the one that has been shining in the darkness for over 2000 years and has not been overcome. We know that we live in a world that is in desperate need of light. As followers of Jesus we are called to be the light bearers, the witnesses that God does have this overwhelming love and commitment to God’s people, that God is faithful and has been in covenant and relationship with us throughout all time. Oh, not in a happily-ever-after, nothing bad is ever going to happen kind of way, because that would not be real life. But in never- abandoning presence, in the gift of God who comes – Emmanuel God with us in Jesus – the God who became us and lived among us as one of us and knew our pain and sorrow and suffering and fears. We are called to let the world know that. We are called to let the world know that God does not abandon us but is with us in the darkness. And we are called to be God’s light in those dark places. This of course challenges us, it means that we must have the courage to go to into those dark places, to take on some of the pain and suffering that is there, to be the light there, to be Christ, to be grace, to be gift. This is not an easy task. It is not something that we may be naturally inclined towards. It may frighten us to think about engaging with the poor or the sick, the angry or the oppressed. It may not thrill us to think about forgiving our enemies, or turning the other cheek, or continuing to give and not count the cost. But we know that this is where the light is needed the most, that this is where we are called to witness to God’s unceasing love for God’s people. And when we do find the courage to do these things, in return we find we grow in our own relationship to God. A friend of mine who lost her twenty-four year old son earlier this year explains it this way: “To the extent to which we welcome and participate in the life of Christ, so we will enter into the weight of suffering that pervades our world. And perhaps the reverse is true as well: to the extent that we absorb that suffering, so we will encounter the astounding love of our Creator that makes God's donation of self to us possible, a gift offered in our own form, as one of us, through one of us. "
This is the life which will be the light of all people, but it is up to each of us. In this world we are the ones called to be the hands and feet and voice of Jesus. We are the ones who testify that the light is still shining and even though the darkness is all around us, it cannot overcome it, because this is God’s story, the Christmas story, and even after all these years, it is still being told every day. Amen.