Summit Presbyterian Church
Christmas Day, December 25, 2016
John 1: 1-14
I have what might be called reverse seasonal affective disorder. I love when the days get shorter. I like waking up and going home in the darkness. I like the cold air, the bare trees, and the grey skies. I sometimes wonder if I should snowbird to Scandinavia, especially when the dreaded solstice comes and the days start lengthening again. But of course, it’s not so much the dark I enjoy — although there is beauty in it — it’s the light in the darkness that lifts my spirits. The lights that beckon from windows of row houses, the lights of cars in the street, the light I turn on in my living room at dawn, lights of cafes at night, Christmas lights on a dark street, the candlelight in the darkened sanctuary on Christmas Eve. Those lights in the darkness make me feel cozy, but those lights in the darkness also feel deep and holy. John says that Christ is the light of the world and the darkness could not overcome it, a metaphor that must have felt even more powerful in the days before electric or gas lights. Christ is the light in the darkness of human sin, despair and grief — and on Christmas Eve we celebrate that, as we remember the light that arrived on that darkened plain of Bethlehem.
But Christ is also the light in the light. For the world is not all darkness, physically or metaphorically. Christ was the light in the manger at night, but also the next morning, when Mary and Joseph were getting organized, and Mary was changing his diaper — or whatever they did 2,000 years ago. Christ is the light on a sunny and sleepy Christmas morning, when the presents have been opened and we can already feel the turning of things back to the normal and ordinary. Christ is the light where the days are now at their longest, brightest and most luxurious - warm southern beaches beside sparkling blue oceans, or the hot noon of a desert sun. Christ is the light in this world of sin, but also in times of peace, and joyful fellowship, and when things are going well. Christ is the light of the world because God in Christ is the source of goodness, and wisdom, joy and love. The darkness does not overcome it, but light doesn’t wash it out either.
So at about 1:00 or 2:00 this afternoon, when you’re taking a Christmas walk on this bright sunny day, or when you’re feeling that Christmas present let-down — children you know what I’m talking about, that boring moment in the afternoon when it already feels like Christmas is over and you don’t want to play. Maybe you’re even feeling disappointed, especially if you’re cousins aren’t there, not really looking forward to Christmas dinner. Or if you’re an adult, at 1:00 this afternoon you may be feeling stressed and irritated, fussing under the bright lights of a kitchen, or perhaps you’re alone and watching TV, feeling sad that the best part of Christmas has gone. At 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon, ponder this amazing fact: Jesus may have been an early afternoon baby. It sounds crazy, but we don’t actually know what time of day Jesus was born. We imagine him being born at night, but if you read the gospel of Luke closely it doesn’t say. And Matthew certainly doesn’t say what time of day Jesus was born. Sure, the shepherds were watching their flocks at night, and that’s when they came to visit the newborn, but Jesus may have been born when the sun was high the sky spreading it’s warmth over Mary and Joseph. We have a song for this: Jesus in the morning, Jesus in the noontime and Jesus when the sun goes down. As the second verse says: Praise Jesus in the morning, Jesus in the noontime and Jesus when the sun goes down. Merry Christmas!