Friday, December 26, 2014
A New Song about a True Light
Sermon preached on Christmas morning at St. Michael's Church, Geneseo, New York: Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98; Hebrews 1:1-4; John 1:1-14
It is amazing to think about it, that all this is summed up in the greeting of this day, “Merry Christmas.” Happy light, joyous new song, beautiful feet, good news, powerful word, living-among-us flesh. It’s all there, and it is all here. May God gives us the courage, the patience and the wisdom to sing this new song and know this true light day by day, because the song and the light are not just for today, but always.
I love all three celebrations of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day: the chaotic and even raucous service in the early evening reminds me of what Jesus once said, to look for the Kingdom of God with the eyes of a child; the more solemnly joyful late Service makes me believe again that peace on earth is possible.
But then this morning, to which I look forward just as much as the others. The quiet and the smallness remind me that God did not come into the world in a big shout, except to a few lowly shepherds. The only witness to his birth his parents and the animals with them in the barn.
We get two very important images this morning to help us carry Christmas into the world. We get a new song about a true light.
The prophet Isaiah has good news for us, an announcement of peace that calls us to break forth into singing not because all is right with the world, but because “Your God reigns!”
The psalmist calls this a new song. Sing a new song to the Lord, the one who has done wonderful things. Sing of God’s victory, but a strange victory, the victory of remembrance. God has remembered his ḫesed, his steadfast love, news that is so good the whole earth is invited to join.
Then we get something a bit more cerebral from the Letter to the Hebrews, trying to wrap words around the immensity of what has happened.
He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word.
John then tells of this word, with God from beginning, the word of creation, the word that is also the light that shines in the darkness, and which the darkness cannot overcome.
In short we get a word of good news, that comes to us as a song and as light in our darkness. And this is greater than any gift we may have received or will receive this Christmas.
We are here—remnant though we are—to be like John the Baptist, to “testify to the light,” “the true light, that enlightens everyone.”
That little word “true” is so important in John’s Gospel, as important as the image of “light” itself. This true light that shines in the darkness is for everyone, that is what makes it true. “False light” for John is anything that tries to shine for just a few, the special, the insiders, the powerful, whether their power be secular or “spiritual.” The true light is for everyone just as the Word became flesh and lived not among the few, but among, simply, “us.”
This is the powerful word that we celebrate this morning, the powerful word that forms a new song, the true light that is true because it is universal, the light that was the word that lived in the world.