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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:Light Into the Darkness 5: The Messianic Light
Text:John 1:1-18 (View)
Occasion:Christmas Day
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2023-01-24
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: John 1:1-18

Text: John 1:1-18

 

LIGHT INTO THE DARKNESS: THE MESSIANIC LIGHT

  1. In Darkness - Light

  2. In Despair - Hope

 

  1. Psalm 150: 1-3

  2. Psalm 132: 6, 7, 10

  3. Hark the Herald Angels Sing: 1-3

  4. Hymn 20: 1-2

  5. Psalm 25: 4, 10

  6. Hymn 20: 3, 4

 

Words to Listen For: boils, repair, wall, verbal, grow

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. Fill in the blanks: Advent is about __________________, Christmas is about _________

  2. What didn’t change in 700 years?  What did change?

  3. What are the “default settings” for the universe?

  4. What does John the Apostle talk about John the Baptist?

  5. What is our choice this Christmas?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Jesus Christ our Lord,

It’s Christmas!  We’ve arrived!

We have arrived - some of us in a very literal way, with family and friends coming to spend Christmas together.  I see some of you here that I haven’t seen in a while.  Welcome - you’ve arrived!

We have arrived…we’ve SURVIVED the busyness of the season.  The busyness of work, of school, of family.  We’ve arrived and today, we can take a bit of a breather.  Nearly everyone here, with probably just one exception, has today off work.  Wonderful!

And we have arrived…as a CHURCH.  We have arrived at the culmination of our advent sermon series - light in the darkness.

Verse 4 - 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.

Verse 9 - The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 

Verse 14 - And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

We have arrived…and HE has arrived.

That’s what Christmas is.  ARRIVAL.

 

Advent is ANTICIPATION

Christmas is ARRIVAL.

 

The arrival of the long-promised Messiah.

The arrival of the victory of the light!

 

And it was a long time coming.

Because the entire history of the Old Testament, the entire history of…well…HISTORY…up to that point was the darkness trying to conquer the light.

But try as he might, Satan will never gain the victory.

The darkness will never extinguish the light

 

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

This Christmas, let’s examine the ultimate Christmas story.  A story of truth.  A story of hope.  A story of life…a story of the victory of the light.

LIGHT INTO THE DARKNESS: THE MESSIANIC LIGHT

  1. In Darkness - Light

  2. In Despair - Hope

The Messianic Light: In Darkness - Light

In Darkness…Light.

Is this the same thing again?  The same thing as last time, just swapping out “King Ahaz” for “Caesar Augustus” ?

That the world was shrouded in darkness, without hope, everything was politically dark, everything was spiritually dark.

Well…not exactly.  We COULD get into all that, as the people WERE in a very similar state as they were during the reign of King Ahaz, just 700 years later.

In 700 years, not much had changed.  There was an evil godless man in control of God’s people.  The people despaired.

But there is also a difference.  In the intervening 700 years, there was something awful that had been born in the minds and hearts of God’s people.  This idea that was the biggest challenge to spreading the gospel to the Jews in the New Testament, and remains the biggest problem today.

Pride.  Works-righteousness.  Self-righteousness.  Call it whatever you want…what it boils down to is a barrier to the recognition that a Saviour is needed.

And all this started during the exile.  It was during the exile that synagogues came into being.  No temple to worship at, no reminder of the beautiful interplay of worship - man confesses his sin with prayer and sacrifice, God forgives the sin with love and mercy.  With no temple…there became the synagogue.  A place where the Scriptures were poured over…not to learn about God, not to marvel over His grace, not to give thanks to Him for His love…but rather, as a playbook to get back into the Promised Land.  It was during the exile that new leaders arose - the Pharisees and the Saduccees.

And what did this boil down to?  A problem and a solution.

The problem that was before them: God removed us from the land because of our sin.

Their solution: Do not sin.  If we can just be outwardly perfect, God will send us back.

And so, week in, week out, the people gathered to learn how to BEHAVE.  They turned the glorious gospel of grace into dead legalism.

It wasn’t about BELIEVING…it wasn’t about BELONGING…it was just about BEHAVING.

And please…please…let this not be us.  Let this not be why WE are here each week.  Do not turn the church into a synagogue.  Parents…please explain to your children when they ask why we go to church on Sundays… remind them that what we are doing is we are holding a WORSHIP SERVICE.

We are here, and yes, ideally there WILL be some learning…but we are here, above all, to WORSHIP.  We are here to MARVEL at what God has done.

We are not here to learn how to behave as Christians.

We are not here to earn our way to God and please Him with our presence.

Instead, we are here to BASK in HIS PRESENCE.

But when Jesus came…that first Christmas…His church, His faithful people…there were almost none of them left.  Mary and Joseph, Zechariah and Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna.  Were there more than these 6?  Possibly.  Hopefully.  But not too many more.  The rest were in hopeless, dark, confusion.  THIS was the darkness into which the light came.

But, as tragic as this is, as important as it is to briefly touch on this…this is not the MAIN POINT here.  This is the “behind the scenes” of our text.

So let’s get into our text itself:

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

What do these words make us think of?  What do these words bring to mind?

Well, the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ according to John should bring to mind the beginning of everything!  John 1:1 is a beautiful echo of Genesis 1:1 - In the beginning was the Word…In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

And why?  Well…it explains.  It clarifies.  It makes it all the more rich and wonderful.  It tells us, not only about the beginning, but about the pattern for all of human history.

 

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.

You see, before all that chaos, before the formless, void, watery, dark earth…God was there.  And…as our text tells us…He wasn’t alone.

God was all that there was…but He wasn’t alone.  The marvellous mystery of the Trinity.

The Word WAS GOD, but the Word was distinct from God.  He was God and He was with God.

The Word - Jesus Christ, God the Son.  He is the WORD, He is the LIGHT, He is the one who became flesh and dwelt among us.

And what does this tell us about all of human history?  All human history??  That’s a BIG CLAIM!

It tells us that chaos and darkness aren’t the “default settings” for the universe.  There was eternal love and fellowship, eternal light and glory, shared between the divine persons of the Trinity.  Father, Son and Spirit, eternally bonded together in love.  Eternally delighted in each other.

And it is THIS is the “default setting.”  Eternal love.  Eternal delight.  Eternal peace and fellowship.

And so God created in darkness and chaos first to give us a picture of what He WOULD DO.  To give us hope that, when Adam and Eve brought in darkness…they didn’t ruin things beyond repair.

You could say that the creation of light in the darkness is HOPE PERSONIFIED.

It used to be all darkness - BUT GOD.

It seems like it’s all darkness now - BUT GOD.

Darkness isn’t meant to be a natural or permanent fixture of the universe.  It is something to be conquered.  Something to be controlled.

One minister, in speaking of the darkness and the light that shines in it…the light that FIGHTS IT, the light that will one day put the darkness to flight, forever eradicating it…says this about our human experience: We are caught in the cosmic crossfire of light and darkness.

Let’s reflect on that for a moment: We are caught in the cosmic crossfire of light and darkness.

On the one hand, I really like this phrase.  It gives a necessary weight and sense of scale to this battle.  It’s not small, it’s not a minor incursion, it’s a COSMIC BATTLE.

And I like that it takes the attention off of us, putting it on the real fighters - God, the personification of light, and Satan, the personification of darkness.

But what I like about it, is also where it falls short.

We are caught in the cosmic crossfire.  As though Satan and God simply have their sights set on each other, and we are an after-thought.

But…doesn’t EDEN tell us different?

  • God created…FOR us.

  • Satan came down with a wicked plan…to BRING US DOWN.

The Pillar of Fire tells us different

  • Satan caused the Pharaoh to enslave God’s people for 400 years

  • God came down with a marvellous plan…to BRING HIS PEOPLE OUT, to SET HIS PEOPLE FREE.

Each story in the Bible is a story of God vs Satan…that COSMIC LEVEL…but they are fighting, in a very real way…over US.  God is fighting for His church - His chosen people that He loves - and Satan is fighting to hurt God.  To overthrow Him.  To turn His beloved people against Him.

In a sense…and this should make us humble and filled with AWE rather than pride…in a sense…it’s all about us.  We are kind of the point of all of this.  We are kind of the point of Christmas.  Not our goodness, not our loveliness, that God saw us, so pristine and perfect and wonderful, and had to give us a gift…but rather…He saw our need.  He saw our deep darkness and knew that our only hope was in Him.

OUR NEED is what necessitates Christmas

HIM FILLING THAT NEED is what we celebrate.

_________________________________

All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.

We were made through Him, through the Word, through Jesus Christ.  We were made through Him, we belong to Him, we are loved by Him and so…

When it’s DARKNESS for the people of light…the God of light says: THIS WILL NOT STAND.  THIS ISN’T RIGHT, THIS WILL NOT STAND

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.

God the Son said: I’m going to bring light and life.  I AM the light and the life.

Jesus Christ is LIFE - He is the one who gave us physical life, created us…Adam and Eve in the Garden, each of us in our mother’s womb…and He came to give us spiritual life.

Not just to live for 70, 80, 90 years here…but to live ETERNALLY with Him.  To be brought into that “default setting” of the universe - love, delight, peace, and fellowship.

And Jesus Chris is LIGHT - He is the one whose light shines in our hearts, giving us knowledge of the glory of God.  He is the light of faith, and He is the light of understanding.

For this is the inner life of every believer - faith seeking understanding.

God, I BELIEVE…help me to UNDERSTAND.

I believe in you, I believe you exist…help me understand who you are.  Help me to know you, deeper and deeper each day.  Increase my love, increase my joy and fellowship with you.  Because right now… because of the darkness…I am so confused, I am so lost, I am without hope.  Our second point.

You see…this is exactly what darkness DOES to us.  Darkness leaves us lost.  Darkness leaves us confused.  Darkness leaves us hopeless.

Think of physical darkness.  When the lights are off, and you are walking in a house where you have lived your whole life…suddenly a wall appears, seemingly out of nowhere.  You are disoriented, you are confused, you stumble.

Think of mental darkness - we speak of those who are “mentally in a fog.”  Due to the fog, nothing is clear, thoughts are slow, names and facts can escape us, we find it hard to make a clear argument or have a complex conversation.

And it is exactly the same with our spiritual darkness.

You see…we are conceived and born in the darkness.  We are not born as children of the light, but instead, from the very beginning of our existence in the womb, we are sinful.  Our minds and our hearts are clouded.  The reach of sin and Satan is quite far.  We are confused as to what is real.  We are confused as to what is true.  And, eventually, after years, after decades of living in the fog…we give up trying to see clearly.

It was HOPELESSNESS that invaded God’s people.

It was HOPELESSNESS that invaded the world.

Along with chains, and hunger, slavery, cruelty, and aggression, the Roman empire brought with it HOPELESSNESS.

But then…but then the glorious, hopeful words of verse 5 - The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The darkness of the Roman Empire was NOTHING compared to the light of the Kingdom of God.

And the kingdom was advancing.  The light was coming.

Finally there would be TRUTH!

Finally there would be VICTORY!

Finally there would be LIGHT.

Instead of the propaganda that the Roman Empire was the greatest empire to have ever existed, led by the divine Caesar Augustus…there would be truth.  There is only one King who matters.  And, right now…He isn’t in Rome.  He isn’t in Jerusalem.  Right now…He is somehow ruling the universe from a manger in Bethlehem.

Instead of the manipulation of the religious leaders - God only loves you if you’re perfect like us…there would be truth.  We are all in desperate need of a Saviour.  None of us are good, none of us are righteous, none of us can work our way to God…He has to come down to us…AND HE DID.  He’s right there.  He’s come down, and He’s waiting for you to recognize Him.  He’s waiting for you to serve Him.  To come with the awe of the shepherds.  To come with the persistence of the wise men.

___________

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

What?  What is this doing here?  We were into something.  We were into something wonderful and life-affirming and spiritually significant…and then…THIS?

As one writer says, “Right in the middle of perhaps the most beautiful, breathtaking, magisterial descriptions of the eternal Son of God ever penned, the apostle John, abruptly it seems, writes these words:

‘There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.’  They almost feel like an interruption, like a distraction.”

We want to take the Apostle John, grab him by the shoulders, give him a shake and say, “What gives?  Are you directing our eyes away from Jesus Christ, the eternal light, the Son of God, to look at a MAN?”

But that’s not what John is doing.  Rather, he is expounding on the idea that Jesus is the ONE TRUE LIGHT.  For there were those who wondered if John the Baptist was, in fact, the light.

What the Apostle John is doing, is He is grounding the philosophical, theological, poetic, beautiful language, in REAL HISTORY.

This isn’t just a story.  Because a story can be true or false.  Fact, or fiction.  But THIS STORY, the CHRISTMAS STORY is a real and true story.  And that’s the only way that the light can actually help us.  That’s the only way that the light can come to us - if He REALLY AND TRULY came to this earth.

The Apostle John isn’t taking our focus away from the light to focus it on a man…but rather, he is directing us to see the light THROUGH the witness, the testimony of a man.

Don’t get too distracted by the frame…look at the portrait itself.

And what a portrait we see - verse 9 - The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

What hope, what joy, what ANTICIPATION are present in these words!  They should be written on every Christmas card, written on plaques and hung in every entryway, they should be written on the tablet of our heart.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

But it is so easy to take a phrase like this, and turn it into a mantra.  Turn it into just a saying that you repeat - verbal noises without a true meaning.

But it isn’t the noises, it isn’t the SOUND of the words that make it beautiful, hopeful, and joyful…it is the MEANING of these things.

The TRUE LIGHT

    Not John the Baptist, who was merely a witness to the light - but Jesus the Christ, the TRUE LIGHT.

The TRUE LIGHT

Not the false light of the Roman gods, not the false light of the Divine Augustus, emperor of Rome…but the True Light of the One True God, the Divine Christ, King of the Universe

The TRUE LIGHT

Not the false light of works-righteousness, of legalism, of the self-saving theology of the Pharisees, but the True Light of the Messiah, the One who would, one day, die for our sins.  And not just our sins, but the sins of the whole world.

The TRUE LIGHT, which gives light to EVERYONE

You see, Jesus was not just a light to God’s chosen NATION - the Jews.  But truly to ALL WHO WOULD BELIEVE.  From every tribe and tongue and nation - more on that this afternoon.

 

We see this in the triumphant message of the angels to the shepherds: Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord…“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.”

There is nothing national, nothing racial about the message of Christmas.  It is a message for ALL PEOPLE.

Salvation is offered freely to all people…but not all people believe.  Not all people are saved.

Verse 10 - He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him.

And notice that there is a double rejection here.  In verse 10, the world.  But it continues

 

He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.

The world did not know Him - the Gentile world, the Roman world.  He knew them, He created them, He loved them…but they did not know Him.

And then…His people…the ones who should have been searching, the ones who should have been waiting in eager anticipation…they did not receive Him.

His birth had to be announced by Gentile wise men.  By sorcerers.  By godless men.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship Him.”  When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

There is no excuse for Herod not fully understanding what the Magi were saying, for he inquired where the CHRIST was to be born.

It troubled Herod, it troubled the King and all Jerusalem that the Christ had been born.

It troubled the people of God to learn that the long-awaited Messiah, the light that would shine in the darkness, the light that would give them victory and peace, the light that would renew their relationship with God had come into the world.  There is no tragedy like this tragedy.

SO DEEP was their darkness.

SO DEEP was their hopelessness that they stopped hoping.  They stopped seeing darkness as the invader, and accepted it as the “default settings.”

The darkness is normal.  The darkness is fine.  I’m ok with all of this darkness around me - it’s just the way the world works.

But you see…it’s NOT.  This ISN’T what is normal, and Christmas, the incarnation, the appointed time when The Word became flesh and dwelt among us was a picture and a plan of the love of God.  A picture and plan to bring light back into a dark and despairing world.

There are no depths of despair quite like despair that has begun to feel normal.

There are no depths of depravity like Satan convincing God’s people that darkness and suffering and hopelessness are how it was always meant to be.  That there’s no light anywhere else.  If you leave here, it will be just as bad, just as dark anywhere else.

No.  God sees the darkness and the deception and He declares: THIS WILL NOT STAND.

And, despite the world rejecting the Messiah, despite God’s people rejecting the Messiah, there would be those who received Him.  We know of the 6 righteous men and women who formed the church - Mary and Joseph, Zechariah and Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna.  But this number was about to grow.

Verse 12 - But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God.

These are the two options in front of us this Christmas morning.

Jesus Christ, the Word, the Light in the Darkness has come. He has come in the flesh to save us.  How will you respond to Him?

Will you reject Him and live in the darkness saying “this is fine.  I’m fine.  I’m okay with the events that are transpiring here.”  Will you reject Him because you are content with the darkness?  Maybe you have even grown to love the darkness, where the pain mixed with illicit pleasures gives you a sense of excitement, a sense of rebellion, knowing you are doing what you shouldn’t be doing.  But…it is no small thing to reject the prince of peace.  It is no small thing to tell the God of the Universe to stay away.  To tell Him that you want nothing to do with Him.  Because…He may just give you what you want.  And a life without God…an eternal life without God, without light, without any goodness or grace…that is a terrifying prospect.

Do not make this decision lightly.

 

But for all those who did receive Him…

What do we have promised to us this Christmas?

 

Verse 16 - From His fullness we have received grace upon grace.

Grace upon grace -  everlasting waves of grace.

If you receive this baby in Bethlehem, if you stand with your Lord and your God, you will receive grace to help in your time of need.  In each and every time of need, new mercies.  New mercies new grace.  You will receive light into your darkness.  Light that lets you see, light that lets you see this world clearly, and light that lets you see your God clearly.

You will receive the right to be called a child of God - you will be with Him FOREVER, receiving grace upon grace, which corresponds to His fullness - “from His fullness we have received grace upon grace” - an infinite fullness.  An infinite amount of grace.  Everlasting waves of grace - these waves will never cease.

His fullness is inexhaustible and it will overflow with waves of grace forever and ever and it will never run dry.

Infinite fullness.

Infinite grace

And therefore infinite exaltation and joy in Him who is both light and life.

This is what is means that Christ has come as a light in the darkness.

This is cosmic, but it is also personal.

This is about the universe, but it is also about the church.

This is an ancient fight, but it is also about God’s family.

So if you are in the family of the light, if you have taken Christ’s name as your own, then this Christmas, as bold warriors of the light, as bold Christians, be of good cheer.  Christ has overcome the darkness, we need not fear.

Instead, go on the offensive this Christmas - raid the darkness.  It cannot and will never overcome the light.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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