There are a few different accounts of the Christmas story in the Scriptures. There are the prophetic accounts of a coming savior in the Hebrew Scriptures that use beautiful imagery to paint a picture of hope — wonderful counselor, everlasting father, and prince of peace. There are other accounts written by those who likely interviewed Mary or walked and talked with Jesus.
Those accounts provide the details that have become the lyrics of our Christmas songs and the pictures that illustrate our Christmas cards — shepherds and wise men, angelic hosts and brilliant stars, a scared young girl and a beautiful baby boy.
And then there is John. The apostle John.
One of the first, and seemingly closest, followers of Jesus. John’s account is different and therefore should be applied differently. John might be caught off guard by our well known refrain “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.” I venture a guess that John would be surprised by the cheery tone and the shiny tinsel.
And I imagine that John would mostly certainly be surprised that for many Christmas is a time to escape our pain and gloss over our realities — the search for the photo that captures the “perfect” family; embellishing stories of our ever increasing successes of the past year; looking towards future resolutions hoping that they will address to today’s concerns.
John tells the Christmas story with a simple, yet profound, word picture…that the Light came into the darkness. A baby? Yes. A manger? Yes. Angels and Shepherds? Yes.
But to John those details are the backdrop of the bigger, catalytic event. Light was born into the darkness. Hope was born into hopelessness. Calm was born into chaos. Life was born into death. Peace was born into war. Perfect was born into the terribly flawed. Faith was born into doubt. We do the Light a disservice when we underestimate the darkness. John’s understood the story this way — Jesus wasn’t born into our best, but rather into our worst.
This season, as with most other times of the year, it is highly likely that are few things are weighing heavy on your heart — Aleppo, the political climate of America, the racial divide in our country, the epidemic of addiction that impacts so many families near and far, the rumors of impending divorce, the pain of abuse or neglect, the absence of a family member who was with you last year and fears that keep us awake well after others have fallen asleep.
It’s tempting, as the year comes to an end to try to avoid, ignore or retreat ourselves away from that pain and those disappointments. Pushing today’s concerns into next year so that we can enjoy some figgy pudding —whatever that may be — is inviting. After all, it’s Christmas. But, in many ways, that temptation betrays the very message of Christmas. It was into chaos and confusion, darkness and despair, pain and betrayal that Christ was born.
The Father sent the Son, born of a virgin in a tiny town called Bethlehem because of His great love for humanity. This Christmas season — amid all the tinsel and garland, the gifts and gadgets, the parties and pastries, may the Light of Life invade the present darkness.
On Christmas morning, God once again said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
Robb Morgan is pastor of Delaware City Vineyard.