Episode #21 — Darkness and Light: The darkness of the human heart. We don’t like to talk about that darkness, not at Christmastime, and really not ever. But if Jesus has come to be a light in the darkness, then the reason to talk about darkness is so that we can turn toward the light.
Darkness and Light
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 that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:1-5 (NIV)
So far, we’ve looked at what Matthew, Mark, and Luke had to say about Jesus’ entrance into the world and into ministry. Now we come to John, the final Biblical narrative of Jesus’ life and ministry, the one that scholars assume was written last and the one that drew upon an overlapping but distinct set of stories and memories of Jesus.
Here, John gives us a more poetic, more abstract take on Jesus’ birth. It’s also kind of a wide-angle lens, as if the camera has panned out and out and out, from the stable to the countryside, to the hemisphere, to the globe, to the heavens. And as if the scope of time has expanded, as if it has stretched out to include this moment in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago as well as a history that goes farther back and father forward in time than we can even begin to imagine. It is as if John has Luke’s and Matthew’s stories in mind, and says, Yes, and more.
Darkness in the Beginning
So John pans up and out and across the ages, and starts with the words, “in the beginning.” In the beginning was the Word, John writes. By using those three words—in the beginning—he takes us back to the beginning of the book of Genesis, the first book in the Bible, the book about the origins of the entire creation. In Genesis 1, we find darkness, deep darkness, and a God who comes to that darkness and says, “Let there be light.” John tells us that the Word, the logos, was with God in the beginning, in the darkness, in this moment of calling forth light into creation. John tells us that the Word, the logos, was God.
And then John goes on to say that “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” For John, that’s another way of writing, “Baby Jesus was born.”
Light Shining in Darkness
So on the one hand, John is telling us that through the birth of Jesus there has been a new beginning, a new action on God’s part that is just as significant as that first act of creation back at the beginning of time. And on the other hand, John is telling us that what God has done in Jesus is consistent with what God has always been doing. In Jesus, God has shone light into the darkness. God has always been shining light in the darkness. First it was the darkness of the universe. Now it is the darkness of the human heart.
So here’s the part we don’t like to talk about, not at Christmastime, and really not ever. Doesn’t a phrase like “the darkness of the human heart” make you want to close your ears? Wouldn’t you like to get back to singing “Joy to the World”? But if Jesus has come to be a light in the darkness, then the reason to talk about darkness is so that we can turn toward the light. The reason to name the darkness is so it can be exposed for what it is, so we can be set free from it, and so we can offer the light of the world to the world.
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