May I speak in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit…
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. God said:
“Let there be light”
and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he 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.
Now close your eyes…
- Has the darkness returned? Or are your eyes just closed.
- Are you surrounded by light? Or are you surrounded by dark?
- With your eyes closed, who is in darkness, the whole world, or just you?
800 years before the birth of Jesus, when a new king of Judah was born, Isaiah wrote these words…
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
These words have been used again and again to celebrate the birth of a new King of God’s chosen people.
Once upon a time, God chose for himself a people from “all the nations on earth”: He chose a people, the Hebrew nation, Israel, so that through them he could show the truth of the living God in a pagan world. He could show that believing in a living God, the creator of heaven and earth, was a realistic thing to do – that the gods… the wood, silver and gold idols of tribes were nothing more than wood silver and gold – tongue-less statues. Through Israel, God chose to show the world his love. Through God’s blessings on Israel, Israel would become God’s blessing on the world.
But it didn’t go so well… the ‘chosen’ness of Israel became a nationalistic inward-looking belief in their superiority. Wars broke out, and the people of Israel believed they would win because they were God’s chosen people… no longer a blessing, but set apart and holy… holier than everyone else. God’s voice, so clearly heard in the beginning, became swamped by human voices claiming the authority of God.
- The salt had lost its saltiness.
- The once wise had swapped foundations of rock for foundations of sand.
- The guests of the bride, couldn’t be bothered to go to the wedding
- Those who thought they were the chosen ones walked by on the other side.
But just because Israel had shown itself to be as human as the rest of us… God wasn’t about to give up on humanity. A new song has begun. In the darkness of this age that is passing away, God said, let there be light! and a new king is born… no pomp and circumstance: just a humble lowly birth witnessed by shepherds and domesticated animals. We hear the words of Isaiah once more echoing down through eight centuries…
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace
No more powerful patriarchal kings lording it over us. No more human power structures telling us what to do. No more abuse of so-called birth-right. Instead… a baby without a human father. Born without a home. A baby soon to flee the war-torn areas of Syria and Empire, becoming instead a political refugee in a foreign land. Jesus came to call the children of Abraham back into a right relationship with God, but it was no longer a physical circumcision which marked them as chosen: Jesus was looking for a circumcision of the heart. He said, I will take from you the hearts of stone and replace them with a heart of flesh.
If you have ears: listen. If you have eyes: see.
In Jesus, God was renewing his covenant with a chosen people, inviting those who would walk in the light to be his people… no longer because they have some ancestral claim to be God’s children, but by the simple and faithful act of keeping their eyes open in this new light. How do we tell the darkness from the light?
What does darkness feel like?
- Does it feel like this life is all there is?
- Do you believe there is no God, humanity is just a random chance in an infinite universe?
- Is your life is no more than an accident of probability?
- Do you believe God is just a made up story from a time when people didn’t have science to answer questions?
- Are you just biodegradable carrier bags for your DNA, and once you’ve passed on your genetic make-up to your children your purpose is complete?
What does light feel like?
- Those who walk in light are rejoicing that God is and they know they are loved.
- Those whose eyes are open will see the majesty of God revealed in creation.
- They see the love of God revealed in Jesus. For some a blinding flash of light, for others a the slow dawning of the sunrise on a new day.
Jesus turns expectations on their head and invites you to be part of the Kingdom of God today. Unlike royalty or governments that dictate what you must and must not do, Jesus merely offers you an invitation: open your eyes. The Kingdom of Heaven has come upon you. Justice and righteousness come down from heaven and water the earth. The word of God fulfils it purpose in you. So what do you do? Passivity is not an option:
Your eyes are open. Or, your eyes are shut.
Jesus said, those who ask, receive. Those who seek, find. Those who knock – the door will be opened to them.
This is not entertainment: This is life.
Life in all its fullness.
As we celebrate the birth of God’s anointed and chosen one, as we celebrate the birth of the Messiah, the Christ child Jesus: Now is the time to awake out of sleep! Now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.