INI + AMEN.
The old carol “Now Sing We Now Rejoice” is included in Lutheran Service Book. The original carol was a mixture of Latin and German. Now, the only reason I’m saying this is because the original first stanza fits wondrously with our text from John chapter 1. “In dulci jubilo” (In sweet rejoicing) Now sing with hearts aglow! Our heart’s consolation, lies in praesepio” (in the Manger) “and He shines like the sun Matris in gremio” (in the mother’s lap) “Alpha es et O, Alpha es et O!” (You are the Alpha and the Omega.) That’s our joy this Christmas morning. What other sweet rejoicing can there be besides the fact that the Alpha and the Omega lies in a manger and shines brightly sitting in His mother’s lap FOR US. As John tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” This Word is the true light—“God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God.” (NC) This is Jesus, the eternal, “only-begotten Son of the Father, full of a grace and truth.” This Jesus comes as “a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of [His] people Israel.” (Nunc Dimittis) This Jesus is the Truth and Light sent from above, and
JESUS, THE TRUE LIGHT, SHINES AMONG US.
How does Jesus shine? Well, first of all He shines AMONG US, that is,
(I.) He shines in the flesh.
He shines as one of us. It’s what was prophesied about Him: “His name shall be called Immanuel,” that is, “God with us.” That’s what Immanuel truly means. God becomes man. We cannot rise and meet Him. We can’t come to Him. He must come to us. He must come veiled and hidden. For if He came in His full glory, we’d hide like Adam and Eve, we’d cry out like Isaiah, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” But He comes to us in mercy. He comes humbly. He is born of the Virgin Mary. He veils Himself. He takes up our flesh. He “became man and dwelt among us.” As the hymn puts it, “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail th’incarnate Deity! Pleased as Man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel.” (LSB 380:2)
He comes as one of us to shine. But He doesn’t shine among us as we’d expect. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” He must come to die. We must be redeemed from sin, from death, and from the power of the devil. God doesn’t do it with gold or silver or any such thing. He doesn’t do it in an abstract way either, by a mere thought or whim. He doesn’t just get His hands dirty. He gets His hands pierced and nailed. “Nails, spear shall pierce Him through; the cross be borne for me, for you.” (LSB 370:2) He overcomes your sin by becoming sin for you. His death becomes your life. His weakness and death overcome the devil and all his might, his works and ways. He does this “with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.” (SC) And in this way He shines, “from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.” There on Calvary, Jesus, the true Light, shone among us as one of us in the darkness, “but the darkness did not” and could not “overcome Him.” He rose.
This brings us to the second way Jesus, the true Light, shines. He doesn’t just shine among us as one of us, but
(II.) He still shines in the darkness.
He’s certainly still one of us, as another hymn puts it: “God is man, man to deliver, And the Son Now is one With our blood forever.” (LSB 360:2) By His shining, He lightens and enlightens us in our darkness. For all of humanity was in darkness. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In fact, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Death and darkness are all around, even during the Christmas season, but “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.” Jesus is that Light. He didn’t just shine back then with His death and resurrection light, but He brings that light to us now. He is the Light shining now. “We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” His grace and truth come to us and enlighten our darkness. “His Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.” Jesus Christ is the Light of the World, the light no darkness can overcome, and by our baptism into Him we also shine with Him who is the true Light. He shines even today with His body and blood, the true oil for our lamps as we await His return.
Jesus the Christ is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the Word. He is 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.” His birth and life, His death and life again win for you second birth at the font and a resurrection from the dead on the last day. This is His light that He shines upon us now. It shines upon us with His grace and truth. He is the Word become flesh, and gives us to eat of His flesh and drink of His blood. In this way we keep Christ in Christmas, or rather Christ keeps Himself in Christmas. Christmas: Christ’s Mass, the Divine Service that celebrates Christ’s birth. The one who was born in the Manger, comes with His flesh and blood borne in, with, under, by, and through bread and wine. JESUS, THE TRUE LIGHT, SHINES AMONG US even today. Christ IS in Christmas. He’s here for you. Merry Christmas!
INI + AMEN.