Each of the Gospel writers began the story of Jesus in a different fashion. Matthew began with the genealogy of Jesus to convince Jews that Jesus was the son of David so that he was qualified to be the Messiah. Mark did not write about the birth of Jesus at all. He started with John the Baptist and jumped right in to Jesus’ ministry. Luke, at the other extreme, gave detailed accounts of the births of John the Baptist and Jesus.
John, however, is unique in his approach. He began with a prologue that is theological and specifically “Christological”.
This is the first part of the prologue:
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 were made through Him and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
John’s prologue is a commentary on Genesis 1. Genesis 1 first says “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. John tells us Jesus was there in the beginning and that the heavens and earth were created through him. Jesus is eternal and Jesus participated in creation.
It is interesting to me that God creates everything by speaking. Each act of creation after the initial act of creation is set forth with the words “and God said”. God created everything through his word. John tells us Jesus is the Word and God created everything through him.
The earth was originally dark. Genesis 1 says “darkness was over the face of the deep.” But God said “let there be light” and there was light. I used to puzzle over this, for the sun and moon were created later. So, how could there be light? Well, there was light because God said for there to be.
And John tells us that the Jesus had life in him and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness. So, Genesis 1 spoke primarily of physical light. But John 1 speaks to spiritual light. Spiritual light is the knowledge of God. Jesus came to bring the knowledge of God to us. He came to bring the light. He said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”.
The Bible often uses light to indicate the revelation of God to us and our knowledge of him. Romans 1 describes those who do not honor God as those whose thinking became darkened.
Jesus revealed himself to Paul in a blinding light of glory on the road to Damascus.
Jesus’ very birth was an event of light. Angels appeared to shepherd reflect the blinding light of the glory of God. The shepherds fell to their feet in fear at their appearance.
A bright star appeared in the heavens to lead the Magi to Jesus. In other words, a heavenly light led the Magi to the Light of the World.
John also tells us that this light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. That was a dramatic statement when John wrote it. The Roman Empire ruled the world that John knew. It was a pagan empire, having a collection of Gods that were to be worshipped. Eventually, it required worship of the emperor. The Empire was a force of darkness. The Star Wars movies captured this image, making the two leaders of the Empire clothed in darkness.
In spite of the Empire, the church grew. The light spread across the empire, chasing away darkness. Many times since then it has appeared to us that darkness would prevail, yet John’s statement continued to be true: the darkness has not overcome it.
And that statement is true today. Things often look dark. The enemies of the church are everywhere. Yet, the gospel is preached in new places and the church grows around the world. We sing a song about this, but not at Christmas. We sing in on Missions Sunday. But it applies to Christmas, too. It is called “We’ve A Story To Tell to the Nations”. The first verse and refrain goes like this:
We've a story to tell to the nations,
that shall turn their hearts to the right,
a story of truth and mercy,
a story of peace and light,
a story of peace and light.
For the darkness shall turn to dawning,
And the dawning to noonday bright;
And Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth,
The kingdom of love and light.
The Christ child in the manger is the light of the world, bringing eternal life to all who believe in him. That fragile baby survived a jealous Jewish king willing to kill all the male babies in town to kill him. But that darkness did not overcome the light. Jesus rose from the grave after being killed by Romans and Jews. The darkness did not overcome the Light of the World.
And today, as we string light on trees and houses, and in church sanctuaries, we proclaim that the darkness of sin and evil have not, and will not, overcome the Light of the World. He will overcome all of the darkness. And we will stand in the light with him for all eternity.
That is a cause for a Merry Christmas.