ADVENT LIGHT John 1:4-14

Notes for a sermon with the St. James Anglican congregation, Kingston, Ontario, on the Second Sunday in Advent, December 1994
by Robert Brow (

Today we think about the advent (coming) of light into our world. We all know that our physical light comes from the sun, and by reflection from the moon. Imagine the darkness of our world without the light of the sun. We know that nothing can live without light.

Notice how the first chapter of Genesis also points out the importance of the sun and moon to order the sequence of our days and nights, and our seasons, and to count our years. "Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth" (Genesis 1:14). We complain about winter, but imagine Canada without spring and fall, or day and night. And how would you know how old you are if there was no way to count years? Obviously God has designed a world for us to enjoy the light of life. But that is just physical life.

For Christians it is the advent (coming) of spiritual light that gives meaning to our life, and death, and eternity. Already people are celebrating Christmas as the birth of a baby in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. They do it to remind them of their friends and families and the good cheer of the past.. The difference for us is that we know who this Christmas baby was long before he was born.

Let's look carefully at the huge implications of one verse in our Gospel reading. "The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world." (John 1:9) Actually the verb is in the imperfect continuous tense. It should be translated "The true light which enlightens every single person, was continually coming into the world.". Using the word advent (coming) we can say "The Son of God was continually making his advent into our world for every single person who ever lived.."

The reason is that just as the light of the sun is necessary for any kind of physical life, the light of the eternal Son of God is necessary for any kind of spiritual life. Some preachers think he cannot save anyone unless they get to hear his name and understand exactly who he is. That would exclude babies, and handicapped persons, and the vast majority of people in our world. But there is no way the Son of God would want anyone to be excluded from his love by ignorance or lack of opportunity.

Because God is love, the light of the Son of God is totally loving. And from their earliest days we can see in every country of the world how babies and little children and handicapped persons respond to light and love. They want to see what is going on and they want to be cuddled and loved. It is only later in life that some reject the light and love of the Son of God and try out the darkness.

John's Gospel goes on to explain that the real dividing line between people is whether they are light lovers or light haters. "This is the judgment (Greek krisis) that light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19).

How does this continual coming of the love of the eternal Son of God relate to us this Christmas? It is a great time to help people respond to the love of God. But that love must first begin in us, deep down in our heart.

We begin by rejoicing that in Genesis (the beginning of our world) it was Jesus, the Son of God who said "Let there be light" and he designed the days and seasons and years of our life. Take time to thank him for that. But you can also thank him for the days and seasons and years of your spiritual life. When did you come to know him, and what has he meant for you this past month?

Then we rejoice in the fact that no amount of darkness can put out the light of one small candle. How much less can the darkness of the world around us, and even in our own families, ever snuff out the light and love of our Lord and Savior. Light defeats darkness by absorbing it, and when we invite him into our situation sin and darkness is dispelled.

A good thing to do is to take time to bask in the light and love of Jesus. Many go south to bask in the sun of Florida and the Caribbean. But right here in our own homes we can open our lives to let the rays of his life and love radiate and heal us.

If that light and love is flooding your heart, you will "always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15). You don't have to buttonhole people and put them on the spot. It is they who will see the radiance coming through your life and some of them will want an explanation. There are many who in their heart look to the light of the love of God, and we are the ones who are called to help them understand it.

The explanation of our good news of the Son of God is very simple. Let me read again the words of our Gospel reading. "In him was life, and the life is the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was continually coming into our world. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth." (John1:4-14). That is the heart of our Christmas good news.

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