The Wolfes love Christmas lights. We’ve never gone full-blown Griswalds, but we have definitely been close a couple of times. Most years Vanessa, the boys and I line our roof and driveway with red and white lights. We infuse the bushes with white strands and set up a couple of Christmas trees on the lawn. We have been known to wrap the tree trunks and, when Vanessa is not around to keep us in check, get even more creative. Usually our home ends up resembling a life-sized gingerbread house. Yummy. And close to Christmas Day every year, we drive around neighborhoods, coffee or hot chocolate in hand, and look at all the various Christmas light displays. Did you know that only two Christmases after Edison rolled out his incandescent light bulbs, they were strung on a line together and used as Christmas decorations? Almost like it was meant to be. Lights and Christmas go together so well.
Have you ever noticed that John is the only Gospel writer who actually starts at the beginning? Matthew and Luke start with genealogies then jump into nativity. Mark skips the birth narrative altogether in favor of beginning with Jesus’s baptism—the point at which a believer in Christ goes public and launches into a lifetime of faithful obedience to Him. But John starts at the beginning. Actually, he starts before the beginning: “In the beginning was the Word.” Before the beginning, the Word (Logos) already was. He would go on to explain that this Logos—the Divine Revealer/Communicator of God—is also God the creator (v.3) and God the source of life (v.4).
Jesus, the Word, is the “light” that “shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it,” (v.5). Simple physics, really. Darkness only exists where light does not. The darker the darkness seems, the more clearly the Light stands in contrast to it.
“The true light who gives light to everyone was coming into the world,” (v. 9).
In verses 4-9, this Divine Logos, God the creator and the source of life, came to be light and to give light.
Jesus came to be light: “The true light…” The world, deeply and desperately scarred by the effects of sin, was and still is a very dark place (see Isaiah 9:2). Wars, disease, heartbreak, death. All common in a sin-sick environment. So when the Holy Spirit inspired John to pen a birth narrative of the Christ-child, he started by informing the reader that God’s eternal Light—standing in direct contrast to man’s darkness—was coming into the world. No wonder Christmas lights are a thing! I’m trying to remind myself now, every time I pass a well-lit home in December, that while these lights are visually appealing, penetrating physical darkness with a glorious display, Jesus is the true Light whose glory penetrates the darkness of sin, death and Hell. Jesus came to be light.
Jesus also came to give light: “… who gives light to everyone…” The baby Jesus (God in the flesh) would grow into a man full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. In his first recorded sermon, on the side of a mountain, he would say these words to the crowd: “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,” (Mt. 5:14-16). The light that Jesus brings with him into the world, he freely gives to those who would follow him. That means when Christians are in the darkest of situations, they should be shining the brightest for the kingdom of God. When you have lost someone you love and Christmas is so much harder this year… When your finances have tanked and you are trying not to let it affect the way your children experience the season… When you are sunk in depression or anxiety and really don’t even know why… Be light. Penetrate the darkness around you and within you. Jesus came both to be light, and to give light.
So, let’s light up the world this Christmas season with the truth about Jesus. Step into the darkness around you every day with the confidence of knowing that in Christ, you have light and you are light. Wherever the darkness grows darker in your Christmas story this year, the light you have in Christ Jesus only stands more clearly in contrast to it. Be light.
Grace and Peace,