Isaiah 52:7-10, Psalm 98, Hebrews 1:1-12
(watch here: https://youtu.be/_hn_NhCZgH8)
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
Let us begin to reflect on this Christmas morning’s readings with a story. It is a simple enough story that has, at its core, a profound message…much like the nativity story that we retell each year. This story takes place in the most beautiful garden in the world. In the center of that garden stood the ancient Tree of Wisdom and from this great tree there grew many branches and leaves. It spread its roots throughout all the land. The tree was a place of comfort. Creatures would often come to it and sit in its shade and feel its great truths. For many years there was harmony. Then one day a shade from one long branch decided that it was not happy. The shade did not wish to give comfort or shelter. “Fools,” cried the shade as it spread beneath the tree. “I know more than any of them. I am not made to serve. I should rule over everything.” And so it was that in pride and hatred the shade tugged and pulled and stretched itself until at last it was able to break its attachment to the great tree. It became the first shadow. Instead of using its power to give shade, it created a cold darkness that blinded all those it touched to the truth. Instead of using its voice to impart great truths to those around it, The Shadow whispered only lies.
The Shadow crept away from the Tree of Wisdom and drifted far into a barren place where it crawled into a hole in the sand. It sank deep into the earth. The Shadow grew and plotted. It would wait beneath the surface until a sad or doubting creature came near. Then The Shadow would rise up and overtake the unsuspecting creature and blind it to truth and bend it to its will. Over many years and many miles the shadow created an underground army. Then the army of The Shadow began to strike without warning bringing fear, sadness and hate to innocent creatures. “You cannot fight. I will win,” it lied.
Some began to hide and fear the very light of day, for they thought that it was the cause of The Shadow. Others began to hate and fear all the shade of the world, not being able to tell the difference between shade and shadow. It came to pass that creatures began to feel anger toward all things different from themselves. They even became afraid of their own shadows. They stayed in their homes. When they went out they didn’t go far.
One day a field mouse went to the Tree of Wisdom, shook its small fist and shouted, “How could you create such a terror upon us? Why is this allowed to continue?” The great tree bowed its huge trunk. It shook and leaves fell like tears. But it did not answer. Then a voice spoke from all around, “I created light and darkness. I made creatures great and small. To one and all I gave the power to build or destroy, bring joy or pain. One among you has chosen darkness and pain. This is not my wish.” Though dazzled by being in the presence of this great power the Mouse was still angry. “Why do you not stop The Shadow?” cried the Mouse. “Because I have given that power to those The Shadow harms. The Shadow has grown through the lack of caring in creatures. Now it is your job to stop it,” the great voice answered.
The Voice told the mouse how to win. “You cannot live in fear. Fear only makes The Shadow grow. To be rid of darkness – shine a powerful light of truth. To be rid of cold – bring only warmth wherever you go.” The Mouse answered, “I will go out and tell the others what you taught me. I will remember not to hate, because hate makes The Shadow stronger.” But the Mouse worried, “I am only one small being and the shadows are now many. How can I ever hope to succeed?” Suddenly Mouse was surrounded in a beautiful golden light and warmth, “You will know that as The Shadow began with one small dark being; now the light will grow with you, my small messenger.”
So it was that one tiny creature set out into the world. With every kind word and every truth it spoke, the world around it healed. Others joined the mouse and soon the light grew and the shadows faded. One by one, the Shadow’s followers fell before the mouse and the light. The Shadow sank back into it its hole in the earth, vanishing like drops of water in the burning sands of time.
For those of you who heard my service last evening, you heard me put up a defense for darkness. There two great forces in our world: the forces of darkness and the forces of light. Since earliest civilization, we humans have attributed all the evils and sins of this world to the forces of darkness. We claim that evil lurks in the darkness…that nothing good can come from darkness…that only death and uncertainty and fear can come from the darkness. Darkness is the source of our problems—if only we could get rid of the darkness then we’d live absolute peace and harmony, or so we tend to believe. In my message, I tried to assert the value of darkness and show that good things can come out of the darkness. Darkness mustn’t feared—darkness must simply be appreciated for all it does to support the forces of light. We need darkness just as much as we need light!
Just as I put up a defense for darkness, it is only fair that I should take the time to defend the forces of light. Christmas morning should be all about celebrating the forces light. After all, the greatest light that the world has even seen has come into the world! The great battle between light and dark has tipped in favor of light with the birth of our Lord and Savior. So let us dwell in the Holy Light this morning!
Light, the true light of the world, has come into the world this morning. We hear from John’s gospel that “what has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of the people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Darkness prepares the way for light. Darkness can, at times, protect and nurture life. Just think of the darkness of the womb. In those beginning weeks or months or years in which life is forming, darkness is surrounding the life, guarding and protecting it until it can withstand the forces of light. In this sense, darkness can be considered “good.” But darkness does not create life; light creates life! Light creates understanding. Light creates love. Darkness can nurture these things but only light can create them. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it”…this is because the darkness needs the light. Darkness can go only so far in its goodness. Darkness needs the creative goodness of light. Light needs the nurturing, protective goodness of darkness.
Light is a creative force. Just listen how the sentinels lift up their voices and together they sing for joy as we heard in passage from Isaiah. Light is a redeeming force. Light is a comforting force. Light is a revealing force. We need redemption! We need comforting! We need revelation! We need a creative force! We can’t help but lift up our songs of praise like David does in today’s psalm. We sing a new song and shout with joy. God’s righteousness is revealed to us in the Son. We have been redeemed before God because the Son has come to walk among us! The light creates all of our joy and thanksgiving. The light is the source of our understanding and sanctification. We are made holy through the light. We come to know God’s righteousness through the light. We come to know justice and truth and love through the light. The light is truly good in all that it creates!
Look at all that the light created in the little mouse’s world from our earlier story. Darkness may spread but light is just as strong in creating new life. Light grows and multiplies and expands just as well as darkness. Light doesn’t need a whole lot to get going either. The light can have its beginnings in the humblest of origins. The light began in the humble mouse. The Light began in a humble virgin teenager. The Light began in small manger in a stable. Behold how the Light grows! The Light grows and grows, reaching further and further each and every year! The Light creates new life and new hope for all those it reaches. This year and every year we celebrate the Light coming into our world of darkness. Jesus has been born and his creativeness has been born anew. Let us welcome his light and all that it will create in our lives. His light creates new love. His light creates new hope. His light creates new opportunities. His light creates new life. This morning and all mornings let us rejoice in the creative light of the world!
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.