Preacher: Lesley Misrahi
For many people, this has not been an easy year. The world has continued in economic crisis and we know that this has meant that some people have lost jobs and income. In some countries, for those whose livelihood was precarious at best, it has meant the difference between surviving and not surviving. There have been wars and rumours of war, droughts and floods, serious illness and signs of hope which came to nothing. This has affected some in our small community. For Phyllis and Ed, there has been bereavement. Could things be much darker?
Think about Israel at the time of the first Christmas. Things were as bad then as they are now. So what did God do? He did not choose to make people puppets by forcing them to believe in him. Augustus Caesar was the most powerful man in the most powerful country on earth. He easily had more personal power than any American president. After all, Roman emperors got away with things that they would soon impeach a president for. So did God do something to make Caesar his follower? Or did he make sure that the Romans were converted first so that they could impose order on the world? Did he send an exceptionally powerful prophet?
Well, we know, of course that God went himself, and not in power, but as a baby, an ordinary baby, who wasn’t particularly quiet or sweet or clean. And he was born to a young unmarried peasant woman in a turbulent province on the fringe of the Empire. As a man he lived a short, obscure life and was executed as a criminal at the age of 33.
It seems a weak and petty way to intervene in such a big mess as we’ve been imagining in the world. But this is the one whom John describes in the passage that we read as The Word, the expression of God’s thoughts. Jesus is the one who is the true light, who enlightens everyone. If he was there to bring the light to everyone, why didn’t he do it in a big way? Well let’s think. When we came in here this morning it was quite dark and quiet. And we quietly lit the candles and it gradually got brighter and brighter. It was lovely. What would have happened if someone had suddenly switched on the light and banged a drum? We would have been dazzled, we would have shut our eyes, maybe covered our ears. For a little while perhaps we couldn’t see properly.
When the light that was Jesus came into the world, it was not to dazzle anyone, but to help them see. And those who have seen who he is and have become his followers have become the children of God.
Unlike the other gospels, John doesn’t start with the birth of Jesus. He starts with the creation of the universe. He wrote, in the passage we have read: All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. Jesus is intimately involved in the process of creation. He keeps the universe going by his constant creative impulse. And it is the one who made the world, who became a baby in Bethlehem. He is the person who lived as a human being and died for the sins of all people. He is the one who went into the darkness of death and brought out of it resurrection and forgiveness for all who believe. This pattern of bringing light out of darkness, good out of evil, is not just there at Easter. It is woven into the fabric of the Universe, which the Redeemer sustains from moment to moment. So it is that though there is much darkness in the world, there are also amazing instances of hope. The light shines on in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
When you look back at what God has done with what seemed like disasters in your life, sometimes you can see this. Even at the heart of darkness there is light if we are willing to see it.
Jesus is the hope for the world now because he can transform our existence on a day to day basis. We need to have eyes to see the things that did not happen that might have done. It can be very difficult to do this. It’s like thanking God for having enough food to eat. Unless we’ve known real hunger, we don’t really know how lucky we are. Just take a few moments to think about what might have happened in your life, given the circumstances, and which you have been spared or of the ways that God has managed to bring good out of evil for you.
And we are promised that one day he will come back in the fullness of his glory.. And this time he may well dazzle people. So it’s now that we need to get our eyes used to the brightness of his light. We need to look at him and learn to walk according to the light that he has given us. Like Mary his mother we need to be willing to say ‘I am God’s servant,’ so that his light can be born in us.
But the light is not just for us, nor even just for human beings. Jesus is involved in all creation. The one who was born in Bethlehem is able to bring us new life. He is the God of new birth. Paul writes that at present all of the created order groans as if in the pains of labour as it is waiting for God’s children to be revealed. There will be, we are promised, a new world – a new heaven and a new earth. It is here now, in part and sometimes we get glimpses of it in some of the stories of hope we have heard.
This Christmas let’s rejoice in the light that has come into the world. Let’s pass that light from one to another. Instead of cursing the darkness, let each of us use the light that has come into the world to kindle a candle of hope today and for the coming year.