Light Up My Life
Taken from John, chapter 1:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory.”
I have been meditating on this text for the last few days. What does it mean to refer to God as the light of the world?
Each of the gospel writers chose their own way of beginning their message to the world. They chose how to articulate the the significance of the incarnation: Why does it matter that God became flesh and lived among us.
Matthew and Luke begin with our beloved nativity scene, each focusing on their own areas of highlight and emphasis. Mark chose to begin with Jesus’ baptism, an action by God of Jesus’ identity. John chose to begin his good news to the world with the passage above. It deserves a close and slow read. His poetry can at times get the best of us and ties our tongues before the words settle in our minds. So read it again, let it echo through your mind, heart, and soul.
For me, this passage most explicitly communicates why the incarnation matters now. The nativity scenes are beautiful and capture a snapshot of that humble yet profound moment when God entered the world, but for many it is hard to jump from that to what the significance of that moment was. John makes that jump for us. He doesn’t leave it to his audience to decide the meaning, John tells us, ensuring that we don’t get lost in the donkeys or the sheep, that we don’t get side tracked worry about what the stable looked like or why was the inn too full for God. He instead in a matter of a few short paragraphs begins to articulate why it matters, why we should care.
Jesus is the light of the world. What is light? A beacon of hope when we feel lost in an ocean of confusion. A sliver of dawn creeping over the horizon promising that a new day is upon us, the old is gone and the new is about to be born. The comfort and presence that a camp fire offers. Clarity of sight and mind as when we turn on the light as we stumble through a room. Simple moments of beauty, when the basic everyday moments become awe inspiring, like adding lights to our christmas trees and homes during Christmas.
God offers all of these. In the incarnation God came near. It isn’t as if God was ever far away, but for some reason humanity felt distant from God, so God came near. In doing so, God provided a beacon of hope — in the midst of despair we can find a path forward, a new day is dawning. Through his life, we feel warmth and closeness even now, knowing that we are not alone. When we take time to turn to God, we often find the clarity and vision that we need to see our present situation more clearly and to recognize the beauty and awe inspiring reality that surrounds us.
God was born. God is. The world is different because of that reality. We are different because of that reality. Christmas is our time to celebrate that — to celebrate that we invite God to light up our lives.
Merry Christmas, may it be a day filled with light, and a day that celebrates the nearness of God.