ST. STEPHEN’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH DECEMBER 30, 2018
Rev. Sabrina Ingram
THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
John 1: 1 – 18
Today we begin with an insightful expose of denominational theology by posing the fundamental question: How many Christians does it take to change a light bulb?
Methodists: 5. One to change the bulb and 4 to plan the pot luck.
Charismatics: 1. Hands are already in the air.
Roman Catholics: None – they use candles only.
Pentecostals: 10. One to change the bulb, and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.
Anglicans: 3. One to call the electrician, one to pour the sherry, and one to extol the virtues of the old bulb.
Baptists: None. We’ve never changed the bulb before, why should we do it now?
TV Evangelists: 1. But if you want the bulb to continue to shine, send in your donation today.
Lutherans: None. It is by grace and not our own efforts that bulbs change.
Church Camp Leaders: 1. But soon all those around can warm up to it’s glowing.
Presbyterians: Open but there must be an equal number of teaching and ruling Elders. A committee will consider the implications of light bulb change, write a paper and send it down for study and feedback. We will remain in the dark until a majority is persuaded to change the bulb.
Calvinists: None. We simply read out the instructions and pray for the light bulb to change. If it predestined to do so, it will.
United Church: We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the light bulb. However, if I your own journey, you have found that a light bulb works for you, you’re invited to write a poem or compose a dance about your light bulb for the next service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, florescent, 3-way, and holiday light; all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence. We will also consider the ecological impact of light bulbs and whether they should be used at all. If you do not believe in the existence of light bulbs, we’re fine with that too.
Old Order Mennonites: What’s a light bulb?
All kidding aside. Have you ever had the experience of being in complete darkness? I don’t mean a shadowy or shaded kind of darkness, I mean pitch black. A few years ago, my daughter and I took a tour through the Boncherre Caves. The Cavern was lit, but just for fun, they took us deep into the cavity of the earth and turned the lights off. It was so dark, I didn’t move for fear of tripping. I had no idea how far out the walls were, let alone where my daughter was standing. There was a primal sense of fear in those few seconds, a deep sense of disorientation, and then relief when the switch was flipped, and the way was illumined again.
In our technological age, light is something we take for granted. Lamps extend our hours of work and play. Fireplaces provide light with the flick of a switch. Streetlights guide us with their glow. The variety of light and colour from our TV’s and computer screens is hypnotic. Have you ever noticed how bright a frig light shines in the middle of the night? We’re used to light. Few would put themselves into a situation without light. In the darkness we become disoriented; we feel helpless and vulnerable. We value light in our lives.
In his opening chapter, John tells us of another light. It was a light he valued immensely – in fact, more than anything else. This light appeared in the form of a human being, Jesus of Nazareth. Over the last few weeks, we’ve lit the candles of the Advent wreath in anticipation of this light. Now, we light the Christ Candle. The little flame of the candle is small and unassuming, just like the baby who was born that night in Bethlehem. Yet that baby, that unassuming light, is The Light of the World.
Every light has a source. A fire needs the fuel of dry sticks of wood. A flashlight needs a battery. Certain fireplaces need gas. A light bulb needs electricity. Even wireless lights need solar power. John tells us that the Light of the World also had a source, “The Word (Jesus) was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word. The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one. Everything was created through him; nothing – not one thing! – came into being without him. What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by.” (John 1:1 – 4) So the source of Jesus, the Light of the World, was Life and the source of life was God and Jesus was God. As the Nicene Creed states, “Jesus Christ…God from God, Light from Light.” Jesus is his own power source. This Jesus, the eternal God born into this world as a human being, is the source of light needed by each of us. Jesus is the Life-Light of the World. Jesus is the Light of the entire World. His being here, illuminates the world. Jesus moves us from darkness into light.
Light helps us to see ourselves as we are. Seeing ourselves is not always easy. At home I have normal mirrors in which I look quite acceptable; I also have a magnifying mirror with lights in which I can see every line, blocked pore and hair follicle. I can also see where things are headed. Not as easy to view. The Light of the World shows us our human flaws’ it shows us our deeper injuries; it shows us where we’re blocked; it shows us what parts of ourselves need to be plucked away and disposed of; it shows us the consequences of our sin – the ugliness that it creates in us and in the world; and it shows us where we’re headed if we are not transformed. It shows us what we’re made of and what we are motivated by in a stark fashion. In Jesus light, all our concealments are exploded, and we see ourselves as Christ sees us. The purpose of Jesus coming, however, runs deeper than simply shaming us. Jesus came not only to illuminate, but to transform. The Light of the World does some serious laser surgery on our spirits. He invites us to newness of life. He can erase the scars and wounds of the past. In him we are re-born. John says, “But whoever did want him, who believed he was who He claimed and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves” (vs. 12). In Christ, we move from being our ego self, the self we want the world to see – our “best” self rather than our full self, to becoming our true self. We see ourselves as Christ sees us – a child of God.
The Light of the World also illumines our way, so we can see the path laid out by God and walk it. In Jesus’ light we begin to answer the question, “Where am I going?” Our journey proceeds with a clearer sense of purpose, and with greater courage. The light allows us to determine “who will go with us”. Just as the light in the cave allowed me to see my daughter, we can discover who is on the path with us and who are the best people with whom to walk it. With the path brightly lit, we move with greater freedom, ease and joy. We have a better chance of not getting lost, at ending up at our desired destination, both our short terms goals and our journey’s end.
It is impossible for us to imagine a light that doesn’t cast shadows or reveal where they are. The Light of the World shines to reveal our fears and doubts. Darkness can pull us down. It makes us want to curl up and sleep. When we go through difficult times in life or watch others go through them, it’s easy to lose heart. When we look at the darkness in our world and at our inability to put an end to the abuse of power and the suffering it brings, it’s easy to fall into despair. When our faith is challenged, and we begin to wonder if it’s not just a fairy tale, the light lifts us out of the darkness and shows us the truth in a clearer way. And when we walk in the valley of the shadow of death, the light shines so we can see beyond death to God’s Kingdom, where we will live as his children forever.
Every other light we know is, eventually, overcome by darkness. They burn out or blow out or wear out. The Light of the World has an eternal power source. A few years ago, a house in our neighbourhood was hit by lightening (right after I’d assured my daughter that never happens). Fortunately, no one was hurt. The fire department came and doused the flames. And then they waited around for hours, which surprised me. They waited to be sure the flames wouldn’t re-ignite. On the cross, the world tried to put out the Light of the World, once and for all. They failed. The light burst up again in a glorious blaze we call resurrection. Nothing can extinguish it. As John puts it, “The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out” (vs. 5). The Light of the World shines forever.
This past week Peter reminded me that Christmas Eve was the 50th anniversary of the first picture of the Earth taken from space by the crew of Apollo 8. He commented that as they looked down on our planet, babies were being born, people were dying, wars were being fought, governments were making decisions, crops were growing, some people slept while others went to work and school and cared for their children. This is the world God so loves. The world Christ came to transform. The very place where the Light shines, in order to make us all children of God.
My prayer for you all in the coming year is that the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, will shine in your life dispelling all fear, lighting your way and bringing you hope, peace, joy and love. May the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, shine in your heart so that when the world looks at you, they will see the Light of the World, strong and blazing in and through you.