Words and light. We all know the power of these two ordinary but extraordinary elements of our existence. They are cornerstones of civilization.
Words can hurt, hinder, help, heal. They can build you up or break you down. They express ideas. They show us—and everyone else around us—who we are.
Light is life. Without it, we are trapped in darkness. A single flame in a dark room makes all the difference. It lights the way. It reveals the truth about where we are and who we’re with. Light enables action.
This Christmas, as I look at all the lights outside and inside all the places I go, I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus as the Light. And as I hear and sing the beautiful old carols that etch out the theological truths of the Christmas story, I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus as the Word.
In his Gospel, John doesn’t go into the same details as Matthew and Luke about the what, where, and how of Jesus’ birth. Instead, he reveals more about who it was in the manger that first Christmas—and why it means so much. In John 1:1-5, 14 (HCSB), he writes,
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it…The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Word and Light. The parallels between this passage and the very first verses of the Bible—Genesis 1:1-5—are striking. John was likely reminded of these words about the beginning as he crafted what he would say about the new beginning—Jesus. In Genesis, God speaks creation into existence. In John, we learn that Jesus was the very Word that God used when He spoke to create something out of nothing. Jesus is the clearest expression of who God is and what His will looks like. In Genesis, God kicks off creation by sparking light for the first time. In John, we see that Jesus is the spiritual Light that overcomes the darkness and brings new life to humankind. Jesus is the light that sparks the new creation.
Jesus was active in the beginning, forming all creation, and after sin brought corruption, He came to earth as a man, marking a new beginning for creation. He was the Word that could make all things new with just a breath—exhaled on the cross, inhaled in the tomb. He was the Light that could banish the shadows of sin and death from the face of a blinded world.
And when we think about Christmas—when we think about His incarnation and everything that resulted from it—we get to revel in the beautiful truth that He still is the Word and the Light who gives us new life and sets us free from darkness.
Ann Spangler writes, “Though God has always revealed himself in some way, the incarnation is the clearest, most compelling revelation of who God is—of his holiness, love, and power. Because Jesus is one with the Father, he is uniquely able to communicate God’s heart and mind. As Logos, or ‘the Word,’ everything about Jesus—his teaching, miracles, suffering, death, and resurrection—speaks to us of God. Our destiny depends on how well we listen.”
Jesus came to recreate a world deformed by sin. Everything He did during His time on earth—miracles, wonders, revealing truth—gave us a glimpse of the world as it should be. As it will be when He comes again. And the greatest miracle He performed was to set us right with God by His own death and resurrection, so that the ultimate purpose of creation—God with us, glorified through us—could be fulfilled.
“Christmas highlights the fact that only Christianity, of all the religions of the world, says that the divine Creator of the world has become human and therefore is vulnerable…When the Lord of heaven heard our cries, He came down. He made Himself vulnerable…He came down knowing it would cost Him His life.” – Tim Keller
Word and Light. This Christmas, may the Holy Spirit persistently remind us about the who and why of Christmas. When we see heartwarming or electric bill-skyrocketing lights, may we remember that Jesus is the light of the world—the overcomer of the darkness around us that seems so impenetrable. When we listen to the carols and the stories, may we remember that Jesus is the very Word of God. He is “Immanuel” spoken across the chasm between us and our Loving Father. He is the bridge of salvation built on a sound and a breath, illuminated to light the way home.
One of my sources of inspiration for this post was this sermon from Tim Keller. Highly recommended.