This is a short sermon I preached on 27 December 2015, based around Isaiah 9:2 and John 1:1-14.
In the last few days we have seen the retelling of a story of darkness versus light. One where the darkness seems relentless and overwhelming, but one person emerges who brings light and peace and harmony to everything. Billions around the world have celebrated this story and come together to listen to its retelling once more.
I am, of course, talking about Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. I saw it on Thursday evening and absolutely loved it. I promise, though, that I will not give away any spoilers during the course of this talk; I don’t want to ruin it if you haven’t seen it already.
Jesting aside, the popularity of the Star Wars movies, stories of the fight between good and evil as symbolised by the light and dark sides of the Force, tell us a lot about our world in general. We recognise good and evil, light and darkness, because we see it so readily in what happens all over the planet. We know that, in amongst the good and the bad, there are many shades of grey, but we also know that there is evil so dark, so oppressive and pervasive, that it threatens to totally envelop everything in its path.
We hear stories of the recent past of the Nazis in Germany, Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, fascist dictators in Spain and Chile or communist ones in China and North Korea, and we see them as the bogeyman who haunted our nightmares as children. A beast who was so scary that the thought of him would get into our heads and keep us awake at nights. Only, this evil is real, this beast really does kill millions, control people’s actions, thoughts and lives. It is selfish for power, control, land, money, even worship. And, like the head of the mythical hydra, when you cut off its head, defeat one branch of its evil, another grows in its place. We may have defeated the Nazis, seen the end of Pol Pot, seen relaxation of the Chinese regime and the marginalisation of North Korea; but we now face ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram and other Islamist groups determined to force an evil ideology onto the whole world.
It just seems hopeless. A never ending war against a never ending evil.
But then, light. It starts with one child. One small baby born to two ordinary people in an ordinary town. But not an ordinary child.
We hear the nativity story every year, based largely around the accounts in Matthew and Luke’s Gospels. John’s Gospel, however, also has the Nativity story, but not in the same terms that you’ll find on the front of your Christmas cards.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The Word. The Word through whom God made everything. The Word who is life. The Word who is the light of mankind. That Word became flesh.
This child whose birth we celebrate every December is the Word of God Himself, as a human being. We celebrate, not because of a baby, or a new king of Israel, or because we get a couple of extra days off of work. We celebrate because we know that, as Isaiah said, we walk in darkness, but we have seen a great light.
It’s a light which starts with that one child, but spreads quickly. It is ‘The true light that gives light to everyone’. Each ordinary person who believes in that light, receives that light and can share that light with others.
And it spreads, far and wide, through every person, family, home, village, town, city and nation.
And the darkness? There are many translations of the Bible and they put it differently, but they all mean the same thing,
“The darkness has never put it out.”
“The darkness did not understand it.”
“The darkness can never extinguish it.”
“The darkness has not overcome it.”
The darkness, this evil which terrifies and terrorises, which seems to be unstoppable, has not, can not and will never understand, overcome, extinguish or put out the light of the World in Jesus Christ.
There will always be evil. There will always be dark forces which come, destroy, kill and control. They will be defeated, as they always are, and new evils will always spring up to replace them. Their power is in the fear they hold over us.
But the light of Christ shines through that fear, that darkness, and brings us hope. That one child, born in a stable in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago brings us the light to shine through the darkness, taking our fears, bringing us hope and destroying the power which evil holds.
So, as we move on from this Christmas, let us take that light, share it and encourage others to do the same, knowing that this light is so great, so powerful, that no human or spiritual evil will ever overcome it.
Because that, amongst the turkey, presents, crackers, great sci-fi movies, meaningless platitudes of politicians, carols, tinsel and trees, is the true meaning of Christmas. The light of the world in Jesus Christ will overcome all evil through all of us.