Christmas Day Late 2022 (Jn 1, 1–14,15–18)

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“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not grasped it.”

Merry Christmas!

᛭ INI ᛭

The long-promised Light finally shone in this sin-darkened world. The long-promised Seed, Messiah, Savior of the World was born. He was born in the middle of the night. Born at that particular time to show that Light was coming to a world of darkness, that He was coming to fulfill the promises spoken by the mouths of all His holy prophets.

The Eternal Word, Christ Jesus our Lord, promised through Isaiah: “The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great Light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” He spoke through Zechariah, “the Day shall dawn upon us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.” That Light, that Day is Jesus, the “Word” as John calls Him today.

In the beginning, He’s the One who created light out of the depths of the dark, formless, void waters. He separated the Light from the darkness. He is “conceived by the Holy Spirit.” He was knit together in the darkness of his mother’s womb (Ps 139). He is “born of the Virgin Mary.”

Born for you. Light for you. Shining in the darkness for you. Not only in the Manger, but His cross, and empty tomb. But more on all that in a little bit. This morning we’re rejoicing over what God has done for us in His Son, Christ Jesus. That

THE LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARKNESS, AND THE DARKNESS HAS NOT GRASPED IT.

(I. What about the Light does the darkness not grasp?)

Now, what about the Light does the darkness not grasp? I used “grasp” because John uses a word that in our reading this morning was translated as “overcome,” but it’s also translated as “comprehend” or “understood.” John’s probably employing a double meaning here, which is captured a bit better by the word “grasp.”

Do how does the darkness not grasp the light? Well, it can’t keep hold of it, keep it locked up or contained. Darkness cannot possess light. Light destroys darkness. Darkness is chased away by light. This works if we’re talking about flipping a light switch on, but also about the darkness of our sins.

“This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”(Jn 3:19) As it’s also spoken through David: “Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.”

We know this, too. We’re afraid of our sins, to let the light of Jesus’ Absolution shine on them to destroy them. That’s why the practice of Confession or Announcing for Communion or Private Absolution or whatever else it was called in the history of the Lutheran Church died away. Along with the delusion of thinking you don’t actually need Jesus’ Word of forgiveness to deal with your sins. (“If you forgive they are forgiven.” He promises.)

But this is also because the darkness of our flesh, our sinful hearts doesn’t grasp the light, that is, it doesn’t understand it. It doesn’t understand that “grace and truth are through Jesus Christ.” He didn’t come to condemn but to save and forgive. (Jn 3:15)

But we sinners, unless enlighten by the Spirit, won’t understand that. We only understand law, judgment, condemnation. It’s why there are grudges. We understand “eye for an eye,” “tooth for a tooth.” We understand that we deserve judgment for our sins so we push them ever deeper into our hearts and consciences, covering them up, making up for them. We don’t understand free gift. So we often end up buying presents for people based on the presents they give us.

(II. The Light shines in the darkness.)

But Christmas is the celebration of when

THE LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARKNESS, AND THE DARKNESS HAS NOT GRASPED IT.

And the Light, Jesus, really does shine in the darkness. That’s why He “becomes flesh and dwelt among us.” Darkness cannot be changed into Light. Sin cannot be changed into Righteousness. Evil cannot be changed into good. (Though the world tries to change all sorts of things: to make good evil and evil good.) “Blind guides.”

The everlasting Light shines in the darkness. Flesh and blood to take our sin as His own, that we would become the Righteousness of God in Him. Only in Him, by faith in Him. Christ also says, “I am the Light of the world.” (Jn 8) So also Paul says, “You are Light in the Lord.” (Eph 5) Only made righteous and holy by faith in Christ, does Christ say of you, “You are the Light of the World.” (Mt 5)

In flesh and blood, “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” He enlightens us, opens our eyes to Grace, Mercy, and Forgiveness. He comes in the way not of Elves on Shelves, not “making a list and checking it twice.” He comes in the way not of “the Law given through Moses,” but “Grace and truth.” Only in and through Christ do we have eyes and hearts that diagnose sins not for judgement’s sake, but forgiveness’ sake. Because only through Christ’s forgiveness are we recreated to be good. “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation” (2 Cor 5) And so before God we’re good not for goodness’ sake, but for Christ’s sake alone, for His forgiveness’ sake alone.

(III. How does the Light shine in the darkness?)

THE LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARKNESS, AND THE DARKNESS HAS NOT GRASPED IT.

But we do grasp it by faith whenever it shines. When does the Light shine in the darkness? Well, that’s the Christmas story! In fact, it’s the entire life of Jesus! The darkness of Roman Oppression as exemplified by the census tax, the Darkness of the Flight into Egypt because Herod wanted Christ dead, the darkness of Pilate, the darkness of Calvary’s hill, the darkness of Christ’s tomb, couldn’t hold back the light of Christ.

Christ was born. Christ came back from Egypt. (“Out of Egypt I have called My Son,” as the Prophet said.) Christ’s death is actually the Light of Redemption! (Christ calls His death His glory, His exaltation, His hour.) The guards couldn’t hold back the bright light that welcomed the resurrected Jesus.

The Light still shines in the darkness for you. “From His fullness you receive grace on top of grace.” You receive “double for all your sins.” There’s always more grace, mercy, light, and forgiveness than you have darkness, sin, worry, and dread. The born, crucified, risen, and ascended Jesus wants you to gift you “favor on top of favor,” forgiveness on top of forgiveness. More forgiveness than you have sins, more life than you have death, more light than you have darkness.

“You are Light in the Lord” (Eph 5), and you are “in the Lord” through Holy Baptism. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” (2 Cor 5) For you “were baptized into Christ.” (Gal 3) You “receive from His fulness grace on top of grace” in His Holy Absolution. You receive the fulness of the truth of Mercy in His Word. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The flesh and blood Jesus is full of grace and truth, and you receive His grace (His favor, forgiveness) in His flesh and blood given you in His Supper.

(Conclusion.)

The long-promised Light finally shone in this sin-darkened world. The long-promised Seed, Messiah, Savior of the World was born. He was born in the middle of the night. Born at that particular time to show that Light was coming to a world of darkness.

THE LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARKNESS, AND THE DARKNESS HAS NOT GRASPED IT.

The One who created light and separated the Light from the darkness is “born of the Virgin Mary.” Born for you. Light for you. Shining in the darkness for you. Not only in the Manger, but His cross, and empty tomb. Not only that—“grace on top of grace!” His Font, His Word, His Absolution, His Supper. There He grasps us.

Merry Christmas!

᛭ INI ᛭

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