Advent 1 Midweek Sermon – 2011

Text: John 8:12-20
Title: Jesus Christ is the Light of the World.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

During the weeks of Advent this year, we will be following–praying, really–the service of Evening Prayer.  It’s a service that is appropriate for this time of year because the days are getting shorter, the evening is coming more quickly, and the Light of the World is right around the corner…Evening Prayer just seems to have a tinge of expectant hope, of looking forward to, of excitement for Jesus to arrive.  The service begins with three short calls and responses…Jesus Christ is the Light of the world! The Light no darkness can overcome! Stay with us Lord, for it is evening, and the day is almost over! Let Your light scatter the darkness and illumine Your Church! All words from scripture, all calling on Christ to be present among us.

But then, as the procession has concluded, the congregation joins in song…a song that you’ve probably never heard or sung before, but it’s likely the oldest complete hymn the Christian Church has.  The Phos Hilaron (Greek for Joyful or cheerful light) was sung by the early church as they met in secret, either in homes, or later in catacombs…This song was sung as they lit the candles to lighten the room…a reminder that Jesus Christ is the source of all true light.

So Jesus Christ is coming into the world. John writes this of Him in the first chapter of his Gospel: “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. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. And in this Advent season, it’s that Light that we look for, like people sitting in darkness, straining our eyes to see just a hint of that light that shines in the distance.

But Jesus Christ isn’t just some kind of flickering candle, He gives light to the whole world!  Jesus says, in our lesson for today, “I am the light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life!”  Jesus says this right in the midst of several chapters of disputes over Who He is.  It’s like you can see these opponents, these nonbelievers groping in the darkness for some shred of truth, and they just don’t get it.  It’s right there in front of them, and they don’t see Jesus for Who He truly is.  The one person who appears to be in utter darkness, a woman accused of adultery, is the only one privileged to see the Light of the World, when He says, “neither to I condemn you, go and leave your life of sin.”

It’s the same today.  We bring nothing of worth to Christ.  We fall on our faces at His feet, feeling our way through the darkness of the world all around us.  And just as God led Israel by cloud and fire, He leads us by the Light of Christ.  He leads us through this Advent season and all seasons and time to gladly hear and receive His word. He becomes the very light of our lives, who shines and shows forth those areas of our life that we are less than proud to exhibit.  But He shines and shows them in order that we might be cleansed of them.  Draw near with a true heart and confess to Christ that which you have done or failed to do.  He will give you rest and respite.  He will cleanse you.  He will shine in His glory so that there may be no question of your innocence, your forgiveness, your purity.

That’s the thing about St. John’s Gospel…Jesus is always talking about coming into His glory.  He’s always saying, “my time has not yet come.” But what He’s really talking about is the Cross.  John begins at the beginning of the cosmos, “In the beginning was the Word.”  And from the beginning, this Word of God was coming into the world to be God among us, and to die on our behalf.  Christ was born for this reason: To die and rise again.

One of my favorite Christmas hymns captures this reason for the season quite well…

Good Christian men rejoice
With heart and soul and voice!
Give ye heed to what we say
News! News!
Jesus Christ is born today!
Ox and ass before Him bow
And He is in the manger now
Christ is born today!
Christ is born today!

Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart and soul and voice
Now ye hear of endless bliss
Joy! Joy!
Jesus Christ was born for this
He hath ope’d the heav’nly door
And man is blessed evermore
Christ was born for this
Christ was born for this

Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart and soul and voice
Now ye need not fear the grave:
Peace! Peace!
Jesus Christ was born to save
Calls you one and calls you all
To gain His everlasting hall
Christ was born to save
Christ was born to save

Jesus Christ was truly born for this…to save you from your sins. To die and to rise. To be the light of the world forever.

Rejoice, for the Light of the World has shone upon you, and Christ Himself will lead, protect, and sustain you, unto eternal life.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


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