I can remember my mother listening to Paul Harvey on the radio. It was one of the few programs she listened to that seemed to catch my attention. I think it is because I have always liked “who done it’s” and I enjoyed trying to figure out who Paul Harvey was talking about. He would tell you an interesting story, but he always left out some key information until the very end of the story, then after the commercial break, he would fill in the missing information, often the last thing he told you was the name of the person he was talking about and then he always closed with “Now you know the rest of the story.”
Today we heard the rest of the story. On Christmas Eve we heard the story from the Gospel of Luke about the birth of a child in a manger in Bethlehem. We know this was a very special child because an angel from God brought the Good News of his birth to shepherds who were out in the nearby fields guarding their sheep and the angel declared to them that this child was a savior, an anointed one, the Lord. The whole sky was filled with the voices of angels praising God and singing, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2:14)
John tells us who this child really is. This child is the Word of God incarnate in the flesh of a human. Have you ever thought about what words actually are? Words are symbols through sound or markings that reveal our thoughts and emotions. Sometimes someone will say something and we say that was “thoughtless” or they “spoke without thinking.” What we really mean is they did not think about the consequences of their words before they spoke them. They did not censor themselves and revealed what they were thinking when they would have been better off remaining silent. God’s Word reveal’s God’s thoughts so to see and hear Jesus is to see and hear God’s thoughts and feelings. This is why it is so important for us to study the scriptures. It is God’s Word revealed through the history of Israel, God’s chosen people, and finally through the Word, Incarnate through Jesus Christ and continuing through the teachings of the Apostles.
John tells us that this Word of God was with God “in the beginning” and all things came into being through him. These words draw us back to the first chapter of Genesis when we are told, “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth…” (Gen 1:1) and day by day as God’s speaks, God’ Word brings order out of chaos: light is separated from darkness, the seas are separated from the dry land, plants and animals are created, and finally human beings are created as God says, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness” (Gen 1:26).
John tells us further, “what has come into being in him was life” (John 1:3b-4a). Part of our story of origin, or the story that helps us define who we are, is the story of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit and being cast out of the Garden of Eden. God had given them permission to eat fruit from all but the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, with the admonition that if they disobeyed and ate of this tree they would die, and yet they ate of the tree anyway. Death came to human beings. Mortality, a brevity of our days, but more so a spiritual death. The relationship human beings had with God was broken.
“what has come into being in him was life” Jesus often referred to himself as the source of life, “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:48) the “living water” (John 4:10, 11; 7:38). Through Jesus humanity got the eternal do-over. Through Jesus, the curse of Adam was reversed and we no longer die in the final sense of that word. Jesus told Martha, just before he raised Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26) We hear many people today speak of the resurrection as though it was only some theological explanation of an afterlife. The Apostle Paul was convinced of the reality of the resurrection of Christ. In 1 Cor 15, beginning verse 20 he says, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all died in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.” (1 Cor 15:20-22)
John also refers to the Word as being the “light of all people”, the “light that shines in the darkness” the “true light which enlightened everyone.” Have you ever tried to walk where it was dark? I can recall some unhappy incidents where I left my flashlight behind and missed steps, tripped over a root, put my foot in a hole, or on something less pleasant. Jesus is the light that shines in the spiritual darkness and guides us so we don’t stumble in the darkness. How do we stumble? We fall into those baser actions which are often the result of putting ourselves before others. Matthew lists “evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, and slander.” In Colossians Paul names such things as “fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, greed” and “idolatry… anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language” (Col 3: 5, 8).
Jesus calls us to imitate him and be lights as well. In the Sermon on the Mount he says, “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matt 5: 14, 16). When we walk in the light of Christ, we can avoid the obstacles of the night. We grow and bloom and produce spiritual fruit like “compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…forgive[ness]… [and] love ” (Col 3:12-14). We actually begin to reflect the light of Christ onto others and help them to step out of the darkness into the light.
There is a star shining over a manger in Bethlehem, but it is overpowered by the light that shines from the manger. There are voices filling the heavens with praise and rejoicing, but they are mute in comparison to the Word of God that rests quietly on a bed of straw. There is a young mother who has just given birth to a new life, but the child she bore has just given birth to a new nation, the Kingdom of God and the Word of God calls you to step into the light and live.