The Light Has Come
John 3:19-21 (256) 24 December 2016
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
Even in the middle of the day, when the suns at its brightest, you can find lights on in just about every building you go into. It seems as if we put them on, and sometimes leave them on, whether we need them or not.
Of course, lights are very valuable, even during the day, especially when we’re doing work which requires us to be able to see exactly what we’re doing without having to strain our eyes.
If we drop our keys in the dark, we can search for them for a long time if we haven’t got a light that’s handy. It’s so much easier when we’re reading if we have a good strong light behind us. Good light can help us avoid tripping over things.
And when we’re cleaning something or repairing a tiny piece of equipment – we appreciate good lighting. We could get very frustrated without it.
But we don’t always appreciate the light. There are times when we’d rather have darkness. On some occasions, we can be doing things that we’d rather not be seen doing. And so we can cringe at the light.
A really strong spotlight, for example, which might be very valuable for us at one particular time, would be the last thing that we’d want shining on us if we were involved in some kind of embarrassing activity. It exposes us.
And when there are bright lights around, showing up marks or stains on table-cloths and clothes, and dirt and smudges on walls and carpets, we can feel a little uncomfortable, too, especially if other people notice them.
Light certainly does make things very plain. It enables us to see clearly what’s going on about us, and helps us to avoid danger. It also exposes us, our actions and intentions; it brings out into the open that which we may be ashamed of and want to hide.
And Jesus, the Light of the World does both of these things too. He exposes us for what we really are. He makes us face up to and admit all our weaknesses, blunders, and selfish thoughts and actions. He sees right through us.
There’s no way we can hide from the Light of the World, and there’s nothing that we can keep from him. Everything we do and say that’s not perfect is uncovered and made visible by him.
Jesus wants us to front up, accept the fact that we don’t live up to his expectations, and acknowledge that we’re not the innocent models of virtue that we make ourselves out to be at times. He comes to expose us so that we stop kidding ourselves into believing that all we need to do is try a little harder and everything will be OK.
And Jesus comes to convince us that by ourselves, by our own strength and initiative we’ve got nothing that we can do to make ourselves acceptable before God. No efforts, no great acts of heroism, not even generous contributions of time, effort or money to the church, will make any difference.
Our efforts are all tainted by sin, and so of no use at all in our attempt to win God’s favour. Jesus exposes us as we really are and shows us that we have no way of changing, improving ourselves or influencing God to change his mind about us.
But Jesus, the Light of the World, doesn’t come to just to expose our sin, nor to take great delight in us having to suffer because of our sin. Jesus Christ came to help us acknowledge our sin – yes, but only so that we can see our great need and welcome him into our lives so that he can do something about our predicament.
God sent his Son into the world, not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
He came into the world to do what no-one else could do. He came to free us from all stain of sin, so that we can stand confidently before God, and not have to squirm in our boots.
The punishment we deserve because of our sin has been wiped out by Jesus. The Light of the Word has overcome all that we have deserved, and has given his light to replace the darkness in our lives. So, no longer do we have to wonder whether or not we’re acceptable to God. We’ve been made acceptable. God no longer holds our sin against us, because Christ has wiped it out.
Everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. Believing means holding to be true everything that Jesus has said about God, and about the way to God. It means trusting that God does love us and does care for us – that he does forgive and bless us, that he is our Father, who wants only to have friendship and fellowship with us.
Whoever believes in him shall, not could, not might, but shall have eternal life. That’s what God wants, and that’s what he’s made possible for all of us.
That’s why we need to hear the Christmas message over and over again – even though we may know it off by heart. The Light has come, and it’s come for us and for our good. We gain by Jesus’ presence – maybe not physically or materially, but certainly emotionally and spiritually. Jesus coming to us means that we have his promise of eternal life.
That eternal life has already begun for us. And because of it we can make changes in our lives, and live a life of service for others.
Jesus has come to us. He’s offered us God’s friendship and love. He’s offered us God’s grace and mercy. He was born so that he could be lifted up on the cross for us so that we could have life with him, now and forever.
The Light of the World has come. He’s exposed our sin, and he’s covered it over with his brilliant perfect life, his innocent suffering and death, and his glorious resurrection. We need that Light, even though it shows us as we really are. We need that Light, because without it we remain in the darkness, bring judgement on ourselves and suffer the consequences of a life without God.
But Jesus has come. He was born in Bethlehem so that he could be lifted up on the cross for us to turn to, believe what he offers us, and live confidently and joyfully as his people. Amen.