“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 were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.” The Word gives life, for the Word is God. The Word shouted into the darkness, “Let there be light,” and there was light. The light was good, for the Word brought it into being. The Word sounded forth for five days, calling into existence land and sea, the moon and stars, plants and animals. Then on the sixth day, the Word spoke to crown this creation. “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” The Word spoke, and the Father bent down into His creation and formed man from the dust of the earth. He breathed into his nostrils the very breath of life, and the man became a living being. Through the Word all things have life; nothing was made without the Word, not you, not me. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” There is no life apart from the Word, the Word who is with God, the Word who is God. This Word who had created all spoke again and again throughout history, proclaiming the things of God to His now fallen, broken creation. And when the time was right, God sent the Word to deliver this creation from its bondage. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
This is the mystery of Christmas. The Word, by whom all things were made, true God from eternity, takes on human flesh. The Creator comes to His creation as the angels sing His praises. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased.” God has come to His people as a man! Let the shepherds hear it in the night, may those lowliest of men be the first to praise the mystery of the Word becoming flesh! Lying in that manger outside Bethlehem is the Word which spoke our universe into being; even now, this baby, weak and helpless, is upholding the world through His power and majesty. In this dark night, “the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
This world is darkened because of sin; the Word declared “Let there be light,” but that light has been dimmed. Man was created in His image and likeness, but that image has been obscured, that likeness has been horribly corrupted. This world is dying, and man is blind. The Light shines in the darkness to drive it away. The Light shines in the darkness to restore the fallen creation, to make right what had gone so horribly wrong. The Light shines in the darkness to save us. But we would not receive Him. “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him.” The world didn’t recognize the Word come in the flesh, and so it rejected Him. The Creator came to His creation, and the creation refused to know Him. They denied that they were blind, walking in darkness, and so they saw no need of the Light. There was no room at Bethlehem’s inn for Mary and Joseph; there was no room in darkened hearts for the Light of the world.
Misunderstanding and confusion leads to anger and hostility; the creation not only failed to recognize its Creator, but it attempted to destroy Him, it attempted to silence the Word, it attempted to snuff out the Light. “He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.” The Word had spoken to the people of Israel throughout history; He had made them His own, His treasured possession. They had privileged status among all the nations of the world; He fought their battles, He delivered them again and again. They had one purpose, one reason for their existence: to bring the Light into the world. But when the Light shone in the hills of Bethlehem, they rejected it. They chose the ways of darkness instead of the beautiful Light, they chose blindness instead of sight. And so they raged against the Light.
The creation shouted out against the Creator, “Crucify, crucify!” The sheep chained up their Shepherd, the subjects murdered their King. He came for their salvation; they nailed Him to a tree. The darkness surrounded the Light, seeking only its destruction. The sun itself refused to shine as man rejected the deliverance of God. The One who gives and sustains all life was subjected to death. As darkness covered the earth that Friday afternoon, the world thought that the Light had been extinguished. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The Word dwelt among us, and we snuffed out His glory, crucifying God in the flesh. Darkness had overcome the Light.
Three days later, the darkness still sat in victory. Even though the sun rose that morning, clear and bright, the earth stood under the shadow of endless night. But the rays of early morning light shone upon an empty tomb. “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it!” The Light isn’t snuffed out, the Light isn’t extinguished, the Light isn’t defeated. The Light shines forth again, brighter than ever, because the Light has triumphed over the darkness. The darkness raged against the Light and was itself overcome. For the Light gave Himself up into death to defeat the darkness, the Word became flesh to offer up that flesh on the altar of the cross. This was the only way that the darkness could be overcome. The Light took all of our darkness, all of our blindness, upon Himself, and bore it to the cross to destroy it there. There, in the midst of its greatest victory, the darkness found itself defeated. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Christmas points to Easter; the only reason the angels can acclaim the birth of Jesus is because this child will go to the cross to defeat the darkness. The victory cry rings out from Isaiah: “Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted His people; He has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord has bared His holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” Christmas is about victory; the Word became flesh and dwelt among us in order to conquer the darkness of sin and death. We have seen His glory, “glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” We have seen His glory, revealed in a humble manger in Bethlehem, shown in the suffering of the cross, and trumpeted on Easter morning, when the Light declared that the darkness was defeated. The Light shone into the darkness of this world and was not overcome.
Now the Light shines in darkened hearts. “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” No one else brings light in the midst of darkness, only the Word made flesh. He brought the Light into the world, and He brings the Light into darkened hearts. Your heart was dark, filled with sin, condemned to death, but the Light shone in the midst of the darkness. He enlightened you, healing your blindness, driving the darkness away forever. He gave you a new birth. “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Your first birth was a birth of darkness, a birth that could only bring death. You needed a new birth, a birth of Light, the only birth that brings life. The children of light are not born of the flesh but of the Spirit of the living God. The Word alone gives the right of new birth; it is only through Him that life is given. [Today Nathyn received this new birth; he had the darkness driven out of His heart by the power of the Light.] Baptism brings the Light into dark hearts; it changes children of darkness, children of the flesh, into children of God. The same Word which called for all things into being is the Word which gives you the new birth of the Spirit. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” You have seen His glory with the eyes of faith, for you have been baptized into His Name. In your Baptism, you have knelt at the manger, you have stood at the cross, you have peered into the empty tomb. All that He won for you is given in those blessed waters, for the Word remains the giver of life: at the beginning, now, and for eternity.
“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 were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” The Word has never done anything else but give life. That was His task in the beginning, and that is why He took on our flesh and blood and became man. The Word won life through the cross and empty tomb; He gives life, eternal life, by enlightening darkened hearts. He brought light into your heart, giving you a new birth that endures forever. He sustains that life by feeding you with His Word, giving you the same Body and Blood that He assumed for your salvation. And He will raise you up to live forever without sin, the way it was intended at the beginning. The Word sustains life in this world, and He will continue to uphold all things for eternity.
Christmas means that you will live even though you die; a child was born that night so that you will not die eternally. On this Christmas Day, gather around the manger, look in on the mystery of the Word becoming flesh. The Creator has come to His creation in order to save it, the Light has shone in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it. In the words of the Psalm of Christmas, our Introit for today: “He has remembered His steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” Joy to the world, the Lord has come, let earth receive her king! Amen.