Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Friday, December 25, 2020

YEAR B 2020 christmas day

Christmas Day, 2020
Isaiah 52:7-10
Psalm 98
Hebrews 1:1-12
John 1:1-14

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

As you know, the four Gospels were written by four different people.  Or, at least four different people.  And as you also know, I take every opportunity to point that out, because I think it is crucial to understanding what we read and hear in the gospels.  In some ways, the four gospels are kind of like the four Beatles, when you think about it: Paul, Ringo, George, and John; Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John . . . It’s fitting that the Gospel of John has the same name as Mr. Lennon, because John’s Gospel often feels like some sort of drug-trip narrative.

Well, maybe that’s putting it too harshly.  But, the Gospel of John is often just kind of, you know, out there.  But along with the unusual phrasings, John also gives us some of the best, lush poetry of the entire Bible.  Today’s reading is a great example.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
It’s really just stunningly beautiful, isn’t it?  I mean, perhaps we’re a bit jaded from hearing that snippet so many times over the years, but right out of the gate, John is throwing down his other-worldly, space-age, mind-trip kind of lines, and they set the tone for everything that follows.  It’s a prologue, or a plot outline, sort of.  If you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, you can kind of get the point in these first four sentences.  Jesus was there at the creation of life, which is the light of the world; and the darkness will not overcome the light.  For a more detailed explanation, please continue reading the following 21 chapters.

Although, come to think of it, John’s Gospel ought to start out with the phrase “Spoiler Alert,” because of that last phrase: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”  It’s like beginning a story by saying, don’t worry, this time everyone lives!  Everything turns out okay.  

But having that reassurance at the beginning is actually comforting, isn’t it?  Knowing that no matter how dark it gets, the light (which is life) is not overcome by it.  The light still shines.  And how perfect that is with this time of year.  All through December it just gets darker and darker, and colder and colder.  In most years, that Winter Solstice can’t come soon enough, right?  And, as I’m sure you know, it’s not a coincidence that we celebrate the birth of the Savior just as the light begins to return.  The Gospel writer John would have LOVED the timing!

Ever since I was little, hearing this opening to John’s Gospel made me think of like a Cosmic Candle.  Out there floating in space, a little candle in a brass candle holder, sitting out in interstellar space.  Darkness everywhere, except for this tiny flame, suspended in the darkness by the hand that isn’t holding it, burning with the oxygen that isn’t there.

And to be honest, that’s still the first place my mind goes when I hear this section of John.  I automatically go all cosmic.  Huge, massive forces battling for good and evil pitted in a contest for life and death of the galaxy and beyond.  And John doesn’t help all that much, because his Jesus is big and powerful and saying “It is finished” from the cross and all that.  John’s Jesus knows he wins in the end, and he kind of acts like it throughout the whole Gospel.  Big cosmic battle between darkness and light fits right with that.  

But this year, I’ve started to bring the battle down to all of us as human beings.  What I mean is, instead of thinking of the battle being out there in the cosmos somewhere, I’ve been thinking about how it applies to you and me.  Directly.  Not a lonely flame floating in the darkness of space, but rather a light shining within our own personal darkness.  The life which is the light of all people.  

The light shines in the darkness, not just in the world, or out in space, but in your heart, in your own uncertain darkness.  These are troubling times in our world, and we are all worried and unsettled, but the light still shines.  For those in the depths of despair, the light still shines.  For those who grieve the loss of one who loved you, the light still shines.  For those in financial trouble, or who are out of work, the light still shines.  Yes there is darkness, but there also is light.  The darkness cannot overcome the light, no matter how dark it may be.  The light.  Still.  Shines.

And because this light is life, that means everyone lives.  Everyone has hope.  Everyone has the light, and the darkness cannot overcome it.

And on this quiet snowy morning, we celebrate the light shining from a stable behind an inn in Bethlehem.  A baby has been born, who is the light shining in the darkness.  God is with us.

Merry Christmas!


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