24 December 2014

The Light Shines in the Darkness

Little children of whatever age, shape, or size, you are to love one another, because Love is of God.  It is who and what He is, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  It is also what He does, and why He does it.  He creates and gives life for the sake of Love, the Father for His Son, and the Son for His Father, in the Spirit.

Love is of God.  And so are you: You are His workmanship, His good creation, His own boy or girl, man or woman.  He has made you for the sake of love: That you should love Him above all else, and that you should love your neighbor as you love yourself.  If you would know and wish to pursue the point and purpose of your life, it is to love.  But, first and foremost, God has brought you into being, He has created you, and you exist, in order to be loved by Him, by the Father in His Son and with the Holy Spirit.  And so you are.  You are loved by God.

His love for you permeates all of creation, so that all things everywhere work together for your good, by His grace.  Every ray of sunshine, every drop of rain, every flake of snow, every star in the sky, and every breath you take belongs to His loving care for you.  It is not just a thought, a feeling of affection, or a pleasant word, but an act of God and the tangible gift of Himself for body and soul.  He loves you.  He really does.  The evidence and, more than simply evidence, the actual expression and experience of His Love for you is the Body of Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

He is the Light that shines in the darkness.  But the darkness doesn’t understand it.  After all, there is so much that seems backwards, inside-out, upside-down, and the opposite of Light all about us.  In the shadow of death, the promise of Life sounds like a lie.  So, the Light seems artificial, fake, or unreal.  And the Love of God that undergirds and permeates all of creation is elusive, apparently ambiguous, if not downright fickle and fleeting.  The sun is too hot in the summer and too absent in these dark winter months.  There’s either too much or too little rain.  And the snowflakes, when they fall, pile up into a difficult, sometimes dangerous obstacle.  With every breath your body takes, you’re that much closer to breathing your last, no matter how your stars may align.

As you look around and listen to it all, are you not pummeled with the evidence and experience of darkness which denies and contradicts the Light of Christ and the Love of God in Him?

Good friends are hospitalized with heart problems, and even young friends contract cancer and lose their hair if not their lives in battling it.  Old friends lose their memories, and maybe their minds.  Christianity is increasingly mocked or simply dismissed as irrelevant.  Children are martyred.  Terrorism undermines the safety, security, and stability of the world’s pretense of control.  It is difficult to discern the truth from the fiction or the flat-out falsehood.  But you watch it unfold and play out on your phone, on the news, or in the papers, as though life were nothing but a tennis match, a bad soap opera, or a tragicomedy.

Beloved of the Lord, do not give up or give in to the fatalism of unbelief or the futility of despair.  The true Light that shines in the darkness, shines for you, and you are given your bearings again in the Body of Christ Jesus.  Not that it’s obvious or easy to see, but it’s no less true.  God’s purposes for you and for His whole creation are not thwarted by sin, death, the devil, or anything else.  His good and gracious will is not prevented, regardless of appearances to the contrary.  As surely and certainly as the Father loves the Son from all eternity to all eternity, so does the same Lord God love you in and with the flesh and blood of Jesus.

Which is why we crazy Christians sing in the dark and celebrate, not the achievements of modern man, but the ancient and eternal grace of God.  We rejoice and give thanks in the face of death, and even at the gravesides of our loved ones; not because we are stupid or deluded by wishful thinking, but because we have come to know and have believed the Love of God in Christ.  Not by our own wisdom, reason, or strength, to be sure.  We are willing to count ourselves foolish and weak without hesitation.  Even so, by the Word and Spirit of the Father, we live by faith.  We have hope.  And we love, just as we are loved by God.

As God brought forth Light out of the darkness by the speaking of His Word on the first day of Creation, so does He cause the Light of the Revelation of His Glory in Christ Jesus to shine within your heart by the preaching of His Gospel.  He speaks the forgiveness of your sins, and it is so.  And with that forgiveness, He gives you life in body and soul, for now and forever.  He raises you up from the death of doubt to the life of peace and joy, and He enlightens you with His Holy Spirit.

The promise and power of His Word is made perfect for you, for your body and your soul, by the Incarnation of the Word.  The Lord your God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of the heavens and the earth, He speaks to you, to your heart and mind — not from a great distance, as though by radio waves across the vast expanse of the universe — but up close and personal.  He speaks to you by His Son in the flesh and blood born of Mary, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.

God affirms the goodness of His Creation, and He guarantees His good and gracious Will for His Creation, by actually entering into His Creation and becoming one with it in Christ Jesus.  That fact remains and stands fast over against the darkness of death and despair.  Not only in general, but also for you.  God does not hate you or despise you for your sin.  He loves you still.  Indeed, He cares for you most deeply.  And He has become like you in order to save you, to give you His own life forever, so that you should be like Him and live in fellowship with Him forevermore.

In the Son of Mary, you see the Face of God as He really is, and you see the face of Man as man is meant to be.  You see what you shall be in Him, in the Resurrection and the Life Everlasting.

The key, of course, by which you are brought from death to Life, from darkness into Light, is the Gospel of the same Lord Jesus Christ.  For He does not simply enter Creation and become a part of it, but He actually takes upon Himself — He embraces, and He bears within Himself — the contradiction of sin and death.  Although He is the true and perfect Man, the very Image of God, without any sins of His own, yet, He voluntarily undergoes the curse and consequences of Adam’s sin, and He shares fully in the circumstances and conditions of fallen man.

He makes Himself, not only human, but mortal, subject to death.  He bears and carries the burden, the weight, and the punishment of sin.

In this way, He solves the paradox and resolves the conundrum in Himself, in His own Person, in His own Body of flesh and blood.  For He is faithful and obedient, holy and righteous, even unto death upon the Cross.  He remains steadfast and true, even as He suffers and dies for the sins of the world.  Thus, He continues to shine the Light of God into the uttermost depths of the darkness.  And now, then, in His Resurrection from the dead, He shines that same Light upon you through the preaching of His Gospel, which is the preaching of the forgiveness of your sins in His Name.

It’s not an arbitrary or an artificial arrangement.  The Word and promises of God are a sure and certain fact for you in the crucified and risen Body of Christ Jesus.  He who shares with you the same human nature, the same flesh and blood, has entered entirely into your predicament and returned from it to the Right Hand of the Father in heaven.  So, then, God and Man are reconciled, not only in Him, but also for you and for all people.  For He has made Peace where there was enmity.  He has rescued Life from out of the jaws of death.  He is your Light in the darkness.

And not just once upon a time.  As God loves you with all of His Creation, so does He love you every day, from one year to the next throughout your life.  The Father speaks to you by His Son, who remains forever and ever as your Brother in the flesh, true God and true Man.  He speaks the forgiveness of your sins, and it is so, as surely as Christ Jesus is risen from the dead, never to die again.  The certainty of His own risen Body is the absolute guarantee of your own resurrection.  It is for this that He was born.

He has become flesh and redeemed you with His Blood, He has dealt with your sin and death in His own Body, in order to bring your body as well as your soul into eternal fellowship with God.

And now, with His Body of flesh and blood like yours, conceived and born of Mary, crucified and risen for your redemption and your righteousness, He also feeds you: Not metaphorically, but actually, with Meat and Drink indeed.  His Body and His Blood are the surety of your Salvation, the down payment on the resurrection of your body.  In the Sacrament, He is conceived and born in you, as it were, so that He lives in you, and you in Him.  That is the true ChristMass, tonight and tomorrow, throughout the coming Twelve Days, unto the close of the age and the life everlasting.

Hidden under bread and wine, then hidden in your mortal body in this poor life of labor, in your own flesh and blood, the Light shines in the darkness, and the Love of God is manifest in your Christian love for one another.  By forgiving those who trespass against you, by serving those who cannot reciprocate or pay you back, and by persisting in your vocation and stations in life, you also are a Word in the flesh that God speaks into the world.  The darkness cannot understand you, but neither can it overcome you.  For the Light of Christ has risen upon you and within you, and He remains forever and ever your Life and your Salvation.  Nothing in all of creation can separate you from the Love of God in Him.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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