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 to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but 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 to be through him,
but the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own,
but his own people did not accept him.
But to those who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to those who believe in his name,
who were born not by natural generation
nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision
but of God.
And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth.
John testified to him and cried out, saying,
“This was he of whom I said,
‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.’”
From his fullness we have all received,
grace in place of grace,
because while the law was given through Moses,
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God.
The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side,
has revealed him.
I had a difficult week, from an emotional perspective. Tim, a friend from high school unexpectedly died. He and I were quite close growing up. We shared many experiences together. We helped each other through tough times; we got in trouble together, and laughed together, a lot. As we got older, our lives took us on different courses and we drifted apart. But upon hearing of his passing I was just so overwhelmed with sadness. He was a husband and father. And while an event like this is never welcome, having it occur right before Christmas is particularly heart wrenching. For a good part of the week I found myself feeling sad and melancholy. Christmas cheer seemed a million miles away.
At the same time, I have a dear friend who is going through a challenging time. I noticed that her usually elegant Christmas tree was missing from her front window. So I knocked on her door and was met by one of her kids. I asked if they had gotten a tree. A real sense of sadness came over this child as he said that they weren’t going to putting up a tree this year. So I suggested to him that we pick up a tree and surprise his mom when she came home from work. A few minutes later, this boy and his two brothers were in my truck heading to pick up a tree. And a few minutes after that we were all laughing and joking. When we got to the tree lot I sort of just stood back and watched three brothers pick out a tree. These kids had a great time. There was the usual good natured teasing that is present anytime three brothers are left to do anything. But it was wonderful to see the three of them working well together, picking out a beautiful tree, and then helping to load it into the truck. It was simply lovely. As for me, my sadness drifted away for a time as I enjoyed a true Christmas moment.
In this morning’s gospel we heard, “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
Christmas time brings with it so much. The rushing around getting gifts for friends and family. Preparing to host dinners for loved ones. Packing for family vacations. Not to mention the many, many little holiday traditions that we have. There’s a lot.
Today, we celebrate that one blessed, momentous, sacred event when God became man. This experience is far and away the greatest display of love ever known. For out of his love for us, God blessed human kind with Jesus. An event so impactful that 2000 years later the entire world pauses to remember it.
So, what made helping this family a real Christmas moment? Decorating their home? Not even close. The answer lies in today’s gospel. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” I let the presence of Christ shine through me. I let his love filled light radiate. It took away my darkness. And it helped clear away the some of the darkness for this family too.
The reality is that Christ’s presence lives in each of us. It shines its brightest when we respond to it and foster love. It overcomes darkness when our response is mercy, forgiveness, charity, and above all, love. True also is that we don’t need to wait until December 25th to experience Christmas. Bringing forth Christ’s presence, his light can be done every day. And for me, here’s the best part, participating in the spreading Jesus’ love to all we encounter brings the most authentic sense of peace that I know. Does it take away all that troubles us? No. But it does create the opportunity for joy. That deep sense of happiness that comes when we know that we are working in concert with Christ to spread his goodness. This feeling of true peace can never be matched by anything else.
Today as a community, we gather to receive Christ in word and sacrament. We also have the opportunity to make Christmas come alive for others as we let the light of Christ shine through us to dispel the darkness. Let’s embrace that opportunity. Merry Christmas.