Darkness Will Give Way to Light
This sermon was written and delivered for a Preaching Practicum at Wesley Theological Seminary it was preached using a 1 page outline and without this manuscript. The audio provided is what I preached in the chapel at Wesley. The scripture used was John 1:1-18.
Preaching from a page of notes I found myself to be relaxed and feeling freed from the need to “stick to the script’.
Christ has been present since the beginning of creation. I know I do not have to tell you all this considering at this point in your theological career you have been required to take Introduction to the New Testament I & II. You know how John’s prologue starts, “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 came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
And because of who you are I know you also already know the first five verses story of creation found in Genesis chapter one sounds very familiar to what John writes in his prologue. “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.”
When we read our Bibles, we see that since the beginning Christ has been present, and still, since His ascension followers of Jesus have debated whether or not the Alpha and Omega is truly the Alpha. John tells us where he stands on the issue at the on start of his account of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. John wants us to know, 2000 years removed from the incarnation, that the Light that came into the world in manger in the dark of night is the same Light that was present when the darkness of the waters gave way to the light created by God. John wants us to know that the darkness present prior to the moment of creation did not over the Light of God which was present when creation began. John wants us to know that the Light present at the time of creation took one human flesh and dwelled among us.Finally, John wants us to know that Light does not give way to darkness.
According the Revised Common Lectionary, this lection is to be preached in Year C on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Somehow, John’s prologue is to fit into the same genre of writing as the Nativity stories told by Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Their accounts are much different from John’s. Their accounts are more familiar to us.Matthew, Mark, and Luke are cute. They make for a nice children’s pageant and the Christmas cards practically write themselves. Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s accounts include the incarnation, the Light of God entering into our world in the most vulnerable of ways and yet at the same time they are full of darkness, which perhaps, is why we are more familiar with their accounts are more familiar. We are more comfortable with the darkness that accompanied the incarnation than the Light which made it possible.
Darkness is something each of us must deal with in our own way. Taking a literal approach to darkness, we all must figure out how we will navigate unfamiliar sidewalks and streets when we are out after the sun has set.We all must account for the way shadows dance off the ceiling in the middle of the night. I have learned since having children that making the journey from the bedroom to the bathroom in the dark of night is a treacherous trip, never knowing what hazard my son has left on the floor for me (lately it has been Legos). In one way or another the darkness we experience as we move through the day must be dealt with because since God created the Heavens and the Earth there has been day and there has been night.
Another form of darkness we are experiencing today is the same darkness that Matthew, Mark, and Luke write about in their accounts of Christ entering the world. In each of their Nativity stories and the stories that followed darkness was present. A pastor of mine once put it this way:
(darkness because of) The sound of boots stomping down the dusty roads,
(darkness because of) the sound of doors being knocked on and kicked down,
(darkness because of) the scraping sound of metal on metal as swords are unsheathed,
(darkness because of) the chaotic sounds of orders being shouted,
(darkness as) fathers shoved aside,
(darkness as) mothers (are) gasping,
(darkness as) babies (are) being taken.
That is the darkness we are familiar with. We are more familiar, unfortunately, with the darkness than the Light John is using as a contrast. We are more familiar with the darkness because of the sound of refugees walking on a dirt road, seeking safety in a new land. We are more familiar with the darkness of doors being knocked down as search warrants are being served in the dead of night to people who are misidentified as perpetrators of crime because they fit a mold. We are more familiar with the darkness because we hear the sounds of war echoing on our televisions as we sit in the comfort of our own homes. We are more familiar with the darkness as we hear bigotry and hatred shouted in the tiki-torch lit night. And we are more familiar with the darkness as we see fathers pushed aside and mothers gasping as they are separated from their children when they arrive in the nation where they thought they would find sanctuary.
We are more familiar with the darkness my friends and that is why I suspect the Nativity stories of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are read only once a year.Darkness is chosen over light every time fear and self-preservation fail to give way to hope and love.
Have you ever been in the woods late at night? With enough time and patience, if you let your eyes adjust you can navigate a trail or field without a flashlight. When I was in college, I worked at summer camps and by the end of the summer, I was comfortable enough in the darkness that I could navigate anywhere in our camp without a light. My eyes knew exactly how to adjust, and my body knew where each threat laid. Is the same not true for us who seem to be living the darkness? We have become so accustomed to the cries of refugees and sound doors being knocked down that we don’t notice them anymore. We have numbed ourselves to ignore the echoes of war and chants of bigotry and hate. And when a child cries out for their parent, we raise our hands in defeat feeling as though everything we have done has been in vain and that there is nothing else we can do.
If we look at the beginning of John’s prologue again, we find a crucial detail. A detail which is overlooked by our excitement over the light: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Did you miss it?
The darkness did not overcome the light.
The incarnation reveals to us is that while the darkness may seem dark, the Light of Christ always prevails. The Magi did not allow the darkness of Herod to overcome the Light that was revealed to them in an infant. When Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt, they did not allow the darkness of what was happening in their homeland to prevent them from returning home again. God has seen to it that the divine Light present at creation will be present in the darkness we experience. Since the beginning our Creator has been in the business of casting out the darkness swirling in the chaos of the cosmos.
In the darkness we experience today, a world-wide refugee crisis, a criminal justice system in desperate need of reform, wars that seem to have been accept as the status quo without end in sight, bigotry and hatred that has percolated out of the holes it had been hiding in, and a children who still have not been reunited with parents, in these situations it easy to allow the darkness to adjust our vision so that we miss what John told us from the very beginning, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” In the darkness each of us experience the grace of our Lord and Savior is present. The Light will not give way to darkness.