John 1:10-14 (click to display NIV text)
December 9, 2012 (Second Sunday in Advent)
Pastor Dwight A. Nelson
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The Wednesday prayer group has been talking about Holy Light and where we are experiencing it in our lives these days. We began by talking about light: the soft afternoon light of winter, its beauty, and if we have time to sit in it, the sense of peace it brings. There is also the bright sunrise light of summer that fills us with energy for the day. There are the lights of Christmas that bring a sense of celebration to the darkness. Then we talked about Holy Light. Holy Light touches us in many ways too, sometimes with peace and sometimes with renewed energy and sometimes with joy and gladness. Holy Light can come through music, through relationships with people, through scripture and prayer. It touches us on a furniture delivery, a morning at the food pantry, the pancakes of family Advent night, and the Christmas program that the FDF puts on for themselves after the smorgasbord. If we are looking and listening, Holy Light touches us in many ways.
This concept of Holy Light comes from the first chapter of the Gospel of John. John begins with the Word, the uncreated presence of God in the beginning, though whom everything was made. John begins with the language of creation, the language of Genesis, as he begins his Gospel of New Creation. The creation came through the Word and the New Creation comes through the Word made flesh, through Jesus Christ. In Genesis 1, the first act of creation is to call light into being. In the Gospel, it is Christ who is the light.
John tells us that the light is life that the light is now in the world. It was not recognized when it appeared, and it was even rejected, but many did receive the light. The light overcomes the darkness. The light is seen in the glory of the Son, who is full of grace and truth.
Leon Morris has been helpful to me in reading his commentary on John. He writes, “The principal topic in the opening verses of John’s Gospel is the incarnation, together with its astonishing sequel, the rejection of the Word by those who might have been expected to welcome him.” So John’s gospel is the story of Jesus, the Holy Light who came to earth that we might have life.
The first response by people to the Holy Light was to turn away from it. John says, “The world did not recognize him.” Morris says that can also be translated “the world did not know him,” meaning “know him as friend.” The world missed an opportunity to have a friend in Jesus. Do you know what it is to miss an opportunity to have a friend? Sometimes we are not paying attention to the people in our lives. Sometimes we are too busy with other things, or we want a different group of people to be our friends or we are fearful of trying to make a new friend. Then later, we feel badly that we missed an opportunity, that if we had put forth some effort, we could have made a good friend. We realize the loss. This is what happened to the people of the world who did not recognize Jesus; they did not realize they could have been his friend. Do you know Jesus as friend? Have you taken time to get to know him by faith?
The next response that Jesus encountered was rejection. He came home, he came to people who were family, and they did not “receive” him. Again, Morris says that this word means “taking him to themselves.” They did not take Jesus, like a man in those days would take a wife. Today in our culture we think of two people spending much time getting to know each other, falling in love, and then both agreeing to be married. There is this long time of gathering information about the other person and making sure that this is the one I want to marry. But in the ancient world, and in much of the world today, it is not like that. Then, a man would take a woman to be his wife. The selection may have been made by others. He may not have known this woman and yet he would take her or receive her to be his wife. Then they would get to know each other and the man would allow her to become fully part of his life. This is the kind of welcome that the people did not give to Jesus. They did not receive him. He was seen as an outsider, even as a threat. His story did not become part of their story. Rather than a welcome, they give him a cross.
I think for most of us our faith is not a matter of objectively studying about Jesus, gaining all the information we can and then making an informed decision to receive him, to believe. Rather, we receive Christ before know all about him. Maybe we grow up in a home where Christ is present. We come to believe and then we learn more and more about him, we come to love Christ. We let Christ into our lives and then his holy light gradually spreads in our hearts. Maybe we make a commitment as a young person at camp. We believe, but we do not know all about Christ and his word yet. There is time to grow in understanding, in love and in obedience.
Have you received Christ? Are you believing in him? Eric Hawkinson wrote a book called “Images in Covenant Beginnings”:
“The word ‘believing’ was a remarkably living word for the early Mission Friends. It defined their experience of conversion and their continuing state as followers of Christ. It had the living quality of breathing for them. The fathers responded with delight to the objective gospel preached with great simplicity, for the greater part by laymen. It was the old story of Jesus and what he had accomplished for sinners. Theirs was a spontaneous response to the Savior, a response created by his coming as naturally as the rising sun brings the day.”
Through faith, Jesus, the Word made flesh, makes his dwelling among us. The word is “tabernacle,” the tent that Israel carried through the wilderness, the place where they encountered the presence of God. There they saw the glory of God. Exodus 40:34: “The glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” John tells us that the place of the dwelling of God is now the flesh of Jesus. The Word became flesh, and we have seen his glory.
In Christ we see Holy Light, “the brilliance of a full dawning, the explosive brightness of a full day.”
“Come Lord Jesus, come and be born in our hearts.”