December 14, 2014 - John 1.1-18

“Light Overcomes The Darkness”

John 1:1-18

December 14, 2014

 

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ ”) 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known. [1]

 

You will never hear me tell you the story about the time I went spelunking.  Spelunking, for those who are unfamiliar with the term, is the “sport” where you don a helmet and go deep into the dark recesses of caves.  Not the big huge pretty caves that they have signs for on the side of the road, but the smaller ones; the ones that are dangerous, sometimes filled with water, and usually very challenging and cramped for space.  You will never hear me tell that story because it never happened.  It never will happen. And if I ever do find myself, by some freak disaster, inside the confines of a very small cramped, dark cave deep in the belly of the earth, I am quite positive that neither I nor anyone in my party will survive to tell the tale.  I am claustrophobic under extreme conditions.  Elevators and small cars don’t bother me, but just watching spelunkers on TV elevates my heart rate and gets my “fight or flight” instinct up and running.

 

The thing that just kills me about spelunking is not just the tight spaces – that go on for miles – but the darkness.  It just adds to the feeling that you are going to die.  I know a guy that went spelunking.  It was one of his first times, so he did not have all his own gear.  The last four people in their group, of which he was one, fell behind the ones with the lights.  They were stuck.  In the dark, with no light, pinned between thousands of tons of rock.  Pitch dark.  It is the kind of darkness to which your eyes never adjust, because there has to be SOME light for your eyes to see.  In the belly of a cave, there is no light.  And when these people got stuck, what was actually about 15 minutes seemed like days.  They stayed there, in the darkness and silence, just waiting for someone to rescue them.  They could not venture forward, like the blind do, because there was no assurance of where to put your feet.  They were trapped in the darkness.

 

Have you ever been trapped in the dark like that?  Once, when living in the Iowa countryside, I stayed a bit too long out on the back forty.  The sun started to go down, so I started back to the house, and the sun got down a lot quicker than I made it to the house.  I couldn’t see a bloomin’ thing.  No moon, no stars, there were no lights from Des Moines bouncing off the clouds.  We lived three miles from the nearest paved road.  I was walking along, hoping not to step in a hole or on something alive.  Darkness, real darkness can paralyze you with fear. 

 

But the thing about the darkness is this – even a little light, like a single candle, will render it powerless.  Our text from John’s gospel says it best – “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”  Of course the light that he refers to is not visible light, nor is the darkness actual absence of visible light. Rather, his darkness is a spiritual darkness and the light to which he refers is Jesus Christ. 

 

Israel, at the time of Jesus’ coming was in the darkness.  The darkness of political oppression, the darkness of religious infidelity, the darkness of uncertain times and abject poverty were the standard of life for the people of Israel.  But before the light came in to dispel the darkness, there was first a voice.  The voice was John the Baptist. 

 

In our text, the religious police came to question him about what he was doing. 

“Who are you?” they ask him. 

He confesses, “I am not the Messiah.” 

“Are you the prophet?” 

“No.” 

“Well then, are you Elijah?” 

“No.” 

“Well then give us some answer to take back with us.”

John replies to them, “I am the voice that cries out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord!”

And they said, “…Oh.”

 

John was not just some crazy preacher that could be easily dismissed, out in the sticks, attracting some fringe people.  He was causing enough of a stir to get the attention of the religious police – the Pharisees.  Remember, not even Jesus was worthy of their attention until he became a real threat to them.  (Remember the cleansing of the temple?)  John had been baptizing people and getting them to repent. 

 

At the time that John the Baptist preached repentance, there was a great deal from which to repent.  John reminded the people that there is a right and a wrong and a religious work ethic.  It had been a long time since a real, truth telling prophet had come on the scene in Israel.  In side every decent Jew there was a hunger for what John was saying.  That is why they came from everywhere to hear him.

 

There is hunger inside every human for what John is saying.  There is a hunger inside each of us to acknowledge our own sin; to repent of that sin; to shed our chains and be free; to sleep well at night that sleep that only a truly clear conscience can give.  There is a hunger inside each of us that lives in total darkness and leaps with hope at the first sign of real light.

 

Len Sweet tells of the time a friend of his went to buy a globe.  The salesman offered him two.  The first was a regular, up to date globe, but the other one was illuminated.  It had a light bulb inside it, which lit up the entire world.  He liked the looks of it very much, so the salesman said, “Of course, a lighted world costs more.” 

Isn’t that the truth?  A lighted world costs a great deal more.  Especially for us, since we have the light.  We often curse how evil and dark this world is, but let’s be honest a moment.  Is that the world’s fault?  Or is it our fault for not taking the light to all the dark places?

 

Our world is very dark.  This is a world of sin and pain and misery and suffering.  It is in these times of darkness that we are reminded of exactly how frail and fragile we are as humans.  As Christians, we have seen the light.  But there are those that have not.  There are plenty of people in our world, not just this whole world, but also our little world, and they are trapped in the darkness.  Because they have yet not seen the light yet, we should do all we can to let them hear our voice, crying out in the darkness, “Run to the light!  Jesus is the light to dispel your darkness!  The love you seek, the healing you need, the balm for your suffering is the light and love of Christ!  Repent and be free of the darkness that imprisons you!”  At least if they cannot see the light, let them hear their rescue coming in our voices. 

 

Sounds in the dark can be scary, so we have got to make sure that our voice speaks about love.  The last thing you want to hear in the dark is something really scary – like a growling dog, or the hammer of a gun being cocked, or something moving beneath your feet.

 

Out in the Iowa countryside, in the dark, I had the wits about me to call for my dog.  She knew our land a lot better than I did, and to hear her coming through the leaves was to hear my rescue.  I just followed her right to the cemetery road and then I could see the light of our house.  She led me to the light.  The sound of her following the path led me home.

 

The stranded spelunkers waited, and then they heard a voice: “Hey!  Where are you guys?”  “We’re back here!”  “Hold on, I’ll be there in a minute.”  And then they could see the light coming from around the corner.  Their rescue had arrived.  But it was the voice in the darkness that they heard first.

 

I said that I would never go spelunking.  You can write it down as law, but there is one exception to that law.  There is one way, and ONLY one way, that I would go.  If someone I loved, like one of my sons, were stuck in the dark, trapped in the rock, I’d go.  Wouldn’t even stop to think about it.  I can laugh about how uncomfortable it must be to be stuck in the dark or stranded somewhere and need help because I went through it and came out OK.  But if you take away the happy ending to the story, and make the person who is trapped, not yourself, but someone you love, then you get the picture.  Think about how tense this entire country was 18 year ago when little Jessica got stuck in the well. 

 

That is exactly the situation we were in – this entire world is in - and God came and got us.  We had no way out.  Trapped in the darkness, God climbed into the cave, brought the light with him and rescued us all.  He sacrificed his own life to come get us – nothing could have stopped him.  That is the love that is Christmas.  Just when the darkness had almost overcome us, God came into the most dangerous place of all and got us.  God came for you. 

 

And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will never prevail against it.  Amen.

 

[1]The New Revised Standard Version, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers) 1989.

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