In the beginning was God. There was nothing except God.
In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God.
In the beginning, God spoke. He spoke a Word, and the Word was the means of creation. He said, “Let there be light.” And there was light. Light that shines and illumines, light that reveals and gives life. Light that defeats darkness, and confusion, and chaos. In the Word was light—not just the physical light, but true light that enlightens the heart and the mind and the soul as well. The light of God that illumines every dark corner of our souls and minds and hearts.
The light of God shining on a world that chose darkness is what Christmas is all about. In the beginning, the first word of all creation was “be light.” And there was light. God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.
Throughout Scripture, God reveals himself through light. When God revealed himself to Moses at the burning bush, it was in the light of the supernatural fire of God that burns but does not consume that God was present. God was present with the people of Israel in the desert, revealed in the fire that consumed and accepted their sacrifices; and in the pillar of fire that gave them light by night.
When Moses returned from speaking with God face to face on the mountain, the reflected light of God left Moses’ face so bright that he had to cover his face with a veil so as not to terrify the Israelites. Moses’ face shone with the reflected glory of God’s light.
When God gave the Israelites the blueprint of the tabernacle and the temple, which was a microcosm of God’s heavenly dwelling, he commanded that the light of the golden lamp stands never go out to show a glimpse of what the eternal, unchangeable, heavenly glory was like.
When the prophets had visions of that heavenly temple, and they saw God seated on his heavenly throne in unimaginable and truly terrifying glory, they saw a figure of a man so bright that eyes could not behold him, like glowing molten metal, on a pavement of refracted rainbow light.
In him was life, and that life was the light of men. That glorious figure in the heavenly visions was the same that the disciples saw on the mountain of Transfiguration, when Jesus was revealed to them in his nature as truly God. When the disciples saw who Jesus truly was, he was illumined, transfigured, even his clothing was whiter and brighter than any bleach can ever get it. The glory of the one and only Son of the Father, the Godhead made human was revealed in the flesh of a mortal man. And unlike Moses, this was not the reflected light of having spoken with God, but the very source of all light revealing himself to them.
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. On the day when Christ, the light of the world, took our sin upon himself and died upon the cross, darkness fell. He took our darkness on himself that by his power he might destroy our death, our darkness so that the people who walked in darkness might see a great light. On that day, the darkness pursued the light of the world to destroy it or chase it away. But on that day, when the darkness seemed to have won, the light of Christ set an ambush for the darkness. When darkness had killed the light of the world, the darkness itself was destroyed. In Christ’s resurrection, darkness is defeated.
On the day of Pentecost, when the followers of Jesus were assembled, the Holy Spirit came on them in the form of the holy fire of God—not on the sacrifices of the temple anymore, but resting on the living people, transforming them into children of the light, boldly proclaiming the good news of Jesus.
When Stephen, the first martyr and deacon of the church, was being stoned to death for his faith in Jesus, he looked and saw heaven opened, and the light of God shone reflected in his face as he beheld the glory of his beloved Savior.
When the Apostle Paul, persecutor of the church, was on the road to Damascus, he saw a vision of the risen Christ—a vision that blinded him and transformed him into Christ’s most ardent witness.
And the Apostle John saw visions of Jesus coming again in glory to rule the world and judge it and make it new; he saw it purified and made spotless by that same fire of God which consumes the dross but purifies the gold. And he saw the new heaven and the new earth in which there was no more need for lamps, for there was no more night, no more sin, no more darkness or hiding or shame or death or despair. He saw a city shining like gold, lit by the presence of the glory of God himself—the glory of the Lamb who was slain for us and rose again in glory.
In the Beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made. Without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. The true light that enlightens everything was coming into the world.
That light shines into our darkened hearts and transforms us: it shows up the darkness in our hearts and, for all who believe in the Light of Christ, transforms us into children of God—children of the light who can see and hear and know the transcendent, glorious God.
The true light, the Glory, the Word of God, the fullness of the God who encompasses all creation, became on Christmas one of the created. All the glory of God was encompassed in a tiny baby, fully human and fully God. And that is what we celebrate.
Just as Moses and Stephen looked on the face of God and were themselves illumined with the glory, so we, who partake in his Spirit, his Body, his Blood, we who are members of his Body, we are illumined with the glory of God. And unlike Moses’ reflected glory which faded, we bear in ourselves the Spirit of the living God, the light of Christ and the glory of the Godhead. We have received into ourselves that light, which shines on our darkness—and our darkness cannot overcome it. It shines into every corner of our lives, purifying, cleansing, revealing, and redeeming.
And someday, when our purification is made complete, we will look on his face, the burning brightness of our Lord and God, and we will witness the fullness of the glory of God which our mortal frames cannot now bear. We will be made like Him, the Word, who became mortal that we might become immortal, and who allowed darkness to overcome him in death that he might vanquish death for us forever. That is our goal, that is our purpose—to become glorified with the glory of the Son of God.
So as we live in this world where there is much darkness, let us keep our eyes on Jesus, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God in glory. Because in him is the light of the world, and if we fix our eyes on him, we bear the light of his glory out into this dark and broken world. Therefore let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Because his light is in us, let us repent of the darkness in our hearts, imploring our God to burn it out of us with the fire of his love, making us pure and holy—making us worthy reflections of his most glorious light. And let us live in hope, awaiting the day when we shall see his glory face to face.