The Light of Christmas

Lights are prominent in Christmas decorations. John 1:6–9 shows that light is a vital concept to John’s Prologue. John ties in with that emphasis a stress on testimony.

See the light! Understand the contrast between John and the Word. Which John are we talking about? John the disciple? John the Baptizer? The way John introduces John draws you to reflect on what he, the author, and John the Baptizer, have in common: they are witnesses to Christ. Note the contrasts between John and the Word. The Gospel may be correcting an unduly high view of John’s ministry (cf. Acts 18:25; 19:3). The Word was God. John was sent from God. The Word was light. John was a witness to that light. Recognize your own role. You are not central–God is. Yet God has chosen to bring his Word to this sinful world through you, his church. John was in a unique position to witness (regarding what was about to come and was actually happening). You bear witness to what has happened.

Believe in the light. This light shines in darkness, v. 5a. The darkness includes the rebellion of man against God and the plots of Satan against the kingdom of light. But it also includes the darkness of suffering and pain that descended upon this world as man fell. See Isiah 9. You walk in darkness, facing suffering and loss because of the sin of our first parents. The curse of sickness and death is part of that darkness–and all of us experience it. Sometimes the darkness seems overwhelming, impenetrable. But darkness is not the end of the story. Jesus is the true light. In contrast to any possible substitute he is the true, the genuine light. John has in mind the shekinah glory of the Old Testament as well as the light that was the result of the first creative word. The true light enlightens every man coming into the world. “[W]e have the obligation to accept that revelation of God, to understand it, and to respond to it with a life consisting in knowing, serving, and loving God with all our heart and mind.” “[T]here is an illumination of the Logos (John 1:9), or of the Spirit of God, in intellect, conscience, heart, and mind of human beings, such that they can understand God’s general revelation in nature and history. . . . [T]here is an illumination of human beings who live in the light of the gospel, by the Spirit of God, such that they can recognize and know the special revelation that comes to them in Christ and more specifically in Scripture as special revelation of God.”(Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 1, p. 350) In some sense every man receives God’s illumination–enough that he is without excuse. (Remember in your witnessing that the unbeliever lives in a world created by God, a world in which every atom cries out of its Maker.) The light is unique. No man is illumined by any other. In a special sense the light shines in the hearts of all that God calls to himself. John’s use of “world” in v. 9 emphasizes the ethical character of the world. It is in this dark, sinful world that the light shines. Recognize that light, and trust in him! In 1 John the author emphasizes that the blood of Jesus purifies from sin. God deals first with our root problem, our guilt and alienation from him. The cross and the resurrection are part of this light shining into our world. He summons you to turn from sin and to entrust yourself to the Savior. As you do he translates you from the dominion of darkness to the kingdom of his dear Son. As you believe in the light, you walk in it. The problems of illness, suffering and loss may not disappear, but you know that the light has dawned and will continue to shine. This light not only looks forward to the glory light of heaven, it is part of that great, final light, shining in our broken, sin-cursed world. The light has come!

God provides witness to the light. John came “for witness.” Our post-modern culture relatives things. But there is one are of life that runs counter: the courts. John came for witness (for testifying), not just as a witness. The activity, not the person are emphasized. In this Gospel John’s preaching and baptizing are stressed. His function as witness is prominent. Nothing else that he did can be compared to this. The author of the Gospel uses the concept of witness as a key idea. Witness is borne to Christ by: the Father, 5:31,32; 8:18; Christ, 8:14; the Spirit, 15:26; Jesus’ works, 5:36; the Scriptures, 5:39; John the Baptist; a variety of human witnesses (the disciples, 15:27; the Samaritan woman, 4:39; and the multitude, 12:17). John, the Apostle, as well as John the Baptist (and the Spirit who inspired them) want you to know that the message about Jesus is reliable.

Be the witness you are. Witness is a legal function. It sets you off from the “I don’t want to get involved” crowd. It removes you from a neutral position. It commits you. Testifying is not a spectator sport. “Testimony is a serious matter and it is required to substantiate the truth of a matter. . . . Witness establishes the truth. It does more. It commits a man. . . . John lets us see that there are those like John the Baptist who have committed themselves by their witness to Christ. But he is bold enough to think that God has committed Himself.” (Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, p. 90) Not only John, but God himself is involved in witnessing to the light. He testifies by his Word and through his Spirit working in our hearts. And he uses you. As God’s people you are to bear witness. The sending of John is echoed in Jesus, sent by the Father, sends his disciples. Christ, not your own history, is the content of that witness. The season is especially appropriate for bearing testimony to Christ. John’s emphasis on Word makes clear that your words are involved. Being a witness is not just something you do at certain times, though it includes those events. It is what you are. It is all that you do. Your entire life is involved in witness. Your life confirms your words. It displays the compassion of the Savior. Your life reflects the light of the Word. The purpose of your witness, like John’s, is that men might believe in him.

The light shines in darkness. You know it–for God has made it known to you. And God calls you to be a witness to that light, so that you, and many others, might have fellowship with each other, and above all, with him.

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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