“Turn on the Light”
John 1:1-5, January 2nd, 2022
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these words from the first five verses of the Gospel according to John, Chapter one, verses one thru five.”
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God.
3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
“Having heard these five short verses, let us now grapple with them to see their significance in our understanding of God.”
“Turn on the Light”
When we were young children, we struggled when darkness came. We outgrew this as we matured and got older; yet not all of us did. That is why night lights and flashlights have become so popular. In the beginning of this process first came the invention of electricity. Then it was the first light bulb. It took time before batteries, and such were invented. But human kinds’ appetite for artificial light caught on quickly and our current lifestyles cannot imagine being without. Ever since the first ‘reliable electric light bulb’ came into being which led the pack of inventors and inventions that have taken part in this revolutionary concept – artificial night lighting – which we now take for granted. We get home after being at the office or visiting family or out to dinner, or a vast number of other things we do, which bring us home, in the evening as night fall comes. The first thing we do as we enter our homes is to turn on the light! Our children speak out in the evening, “Mommy please turn on the light.” Dad sits down to read the newspaper, or your older daughter studies for tomorrow’s economics exam well into the night because of the availability of lighting after the sun goes down. We live in a truly fortunate time in history. Back in the time of Jesus the sun, the moon and the stars were the only natural lighting, therefore they relied upon fire, in the form of torches, candles, fireplaces and such to light up the darkness. As we technologically advanced, electricity became part of major discoveries toward the middle of the Eighteenth-Century, which changed how we viewed darkness. We tuned on the light.
As we ended our annual Christmas celebration, just last year, we celebrated that the Christ Child brought forth the Spiritual Light of God to all humankind. To turn on that Light all we need do is believe. In our modern Twenty-First Century understanding and usage of artificial lighting, operated by electricity, powered by various avenues of fuel, we envision the concept of Light differently than did early Christians in the First Century. On Christmas Eve, we needed to turn down the lighting in our sanctuary to experience the symbolic beauty of our individually lit candles – lighting up the sanctuary. When we each light a candle in the darkness, symbolically, we are proclaiming that when we each accept the Spiritual Light from Christ, we also light up the world. Thus, to truly “turn on the light” we must become vessels for the Light which the Christ Child symbolically brings to humankind. Pastors, such as I, seek to explain this idea of Light metaphorically when talking or instructing the children. In our time with the children, we used a bit of artificial light powered by electricity which we can not see, just as the Spirit of Christ turns on our Spiritual Light, to symbolized show how the Life of Christ offers us new lighting opportunities!
Now that we have at least a vague understanding of the ‘Light’ of Christ, from the writing contained in the gospel of Luke, we move forward to the writings of the gospel according to John. John, written decades later than Luke, brings us into the early attempts to understand the full concept of the trinity of God, thus the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Libraries of books and writings have tackled this subject, our discussion draws only the simpler concepts. (Smiling.) It would take far longer than fifteen or twenty minutes to go much deeper now. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” /John1:1/ John begins his writing like that of the writings of Genesis one, verse one thru three. “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, then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.” /Genesis 1:1-3 adapted/ Here we see how Genesis connects to the Jesus imagery of “Turning on the light”. The writer of John’s gospel is speaking of a new beginning, as the era of Christ begins; however, he draws on a new concept when he sets the word, “WORD” into his writing. This leaves us needing to understand first, who or what is the Word to which John speaks of. Our lesson becomes clearer if we simple replace Word with the name of Christ Jesus, the Son of God. “In the beginning was the Son of God, and the Son of God was with God, and the Son of God was God.” /John1:1/ Wow! What a transformation!
When did the ‘Word’ first come into being? Our writer of today’s scripture lesson says that occurred in the beginning. Verses two and three bring in the pronoun ‘He’ and then 4 “In Him was life, and the life was the light of all people.” /John 1:2-4 adapter/ Now we have reconnected one personality in our understanding of God back into the personality of ‘Light’ just as the gospel of Luke caused us to view the birth of the Christ child as the giver of ‘Light’ upon humankind that accept the light of Christ. Where does this leave us? Is Jesus the Light of the world or the Word of God? Yes, the Light of Christ is the Word of God. We know this because the Spirit of Christ opened our hearts to the teachings (the Word) of Christ, the Word of God within the scriptures through our baptisms. So, to recap. The Word of God was there in the beginning. And the Birth of the Son of God in human form brought forth a human vessel for us to hear all that was meant for us to hear, as the ministry of Christ blossomed in human form as the gospel stories clearly express.
We now know who the ‘Word’ and the ‘Light’ of God the Father is meant to identify, and that is Christ Jesus, the Son of God. To better understand the meaning of this let us look to a writing from Matthew Henry’s Commentary, where we learn a bit of what was in the mind of early religious scholars. “The plainest reason why the Son of God is called the Word, seems to be, that as our words explain our minds to others, so was the Son of God sent in order to reveal his Father’s mind to the world.” This certainly sheds some light on our conversation. And turning on the lights that clarify our pathways of faith… is surely what we are discussion this morning. As a preacher I seek to open our eyes and ears as we study the scriptures. I often fervently pray to our God that my words will suffice and help us, one and all, to fully grasp or at the least understand the points of the lesson that I am seeking to open-up and illuminate for our use. Surely all preachers are seeking this end as well as good writers and public speakers in various venues. When we view our lesson from this vantage point our author of John’s gospel is simply telling us that God has always know what the message needs to be. It has been there with our Creator since the beginning. Therefore, when Jesus, the Son of God came to live amongst us in human form, he became a vessel for his Father in heaven to speak plainly, in human form, all that needed to be said. God also directed his Son Jesus to live by example the heart of our Creators desires for us and all of humankind.
Author and writer, Peter Woods, wrote for our discussion, the concept of “Jesus being re-incarnated in every Christ follower – as his word of love, compassion, forgiveness, healing, peace; all of it comes and takes flesh in your life and mine.” These words may help us understand why Christ came to live among us. So often we jump to the Easter story to understand the why of Jesus. Woods, gives us a more practical application to consider. And his concept directly connects us with this whole Word and Light aspect of Jesus being the bringer of Life, to all who follow in his example and teachings. Are we not always talking about the love of God, which we freely receive, being passed on to others? As disciples of the teachings of Christ we are surely directed and pointed toward the fullness of God’s love. We view the sacrifice of Christ as the gift of salvation, even though we theologians continue to debate the full meaning of some of the details of the scriptures. Even the Lord’s prayer speaks to how we are forgiven, under the condition that we pass forgiveness to others who may have wronged us. Yes, it seems clear that to be fully involved in the ministry of Jesus we are meant to follow his example, through acts of forgiveness, compassion, while seeking to bring the peace and healing of the Living Spirit of Christ into the lives of others – just as the scriptures teach us how Jesus did!
What is it that we are meant to learn from the Word? What is it that we still need to learn? For if we ourselves have not learned the lesson, how can we endeavor to teach it to another? When we walk into a room we frequently, turn on the light first. Why? Because we are taught from our youth how to illuminate a dark room with light. As adults we pass this on to the next generations through word and deed. When we are struggling with an application of the newest electronic gadget or computer device, we often joke amongst ourselves, especially if we are over sixty, that we need to ask someone under thirty! Why do we say this? First it is true; secondly, they are closer to the teachings of these devices and their minds are not cluttered with our older teachings. Take for example the counting devices many of us learned early in life. For example, back in 1965, we taught the “Baudot Multiplex System,” to would be electronic technicians that needed to keep the state-of-the-art communications equipment like the teletype device behind Walter Cronkite’s news desk back then. If you are under thirty you possible don’t know anything about the ‘Baudot system. However, when we older folks need help with new technology, we ask a younger person!
How is all this discussion important to us? How does it pertain to our lesson? When someone asks you how you connect with God and the Christmas story of the baby Jesus, you will need to speak of it from your current understanding and knowledge. Where has the light of Christ, the Word of God been most prevalent in your life? You may need to do as the writers of Genies and the gospel of John did. They went back to the beginning. And remember as you seek to pass forward the story of the Light of God, you may need to invoke the “Words” that you understand, if you hope to “Turn on the Light” of understanding for another. Bear in mind always, you can only ‘Pass-On’ to others what you have!