December 24, 2022
And we beheld His glory, as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of Grace and truth.
(St. John i. 14)
In Holy Advent you and I have been endeavoring to prepare our hearts and souls for the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ on Christmas night. But in order to truly welcome Him, we must beware of missing His coming Life which St. John tells us is the Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. (Ibid, 9). Tonight, we shall learn that He shall be hidden from us if we continue to live in the darkness of the spiritual night. So on this night we must endeavor to be illuminated and enlightened by Christ the coming Light of God the Father. On this night we must endeavor to embrace the Holy Spirit of this Light, that this Life may not merely irradiate our minds with God’s truth but may enkindle the fire of His Love in our hearts, so that Christ the coming Light may be made flesh in us.
But first to the darkness. St. John is one who has heard the call of Jesus in his fellow Apostle Paul: The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. (Rom. xiii. 12) What Christ has told him in darkness, he must now speak in the light. (St. Matt. x. 27) For the people who sat in darkness have seen a great Light, and to them that sat in the region and shadow of death, upon them hath the Light sprung up. (St. Matt. iv. 16) St. John knows that the Light of God has shone into the darkness of man’s fallen world. He knows also that if Christ is to give Light to them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide their feet into the way of peace (St. Luke i. 79) the Light must shine from the heart of God into his own. He sees that those who follow Christ shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the Light of Life. (St. John viii. 12)
So, St. John reminds us that we are called out of darkness into Christ’s marvelous Light. (1 St. Peter ii. 9) To grasp this vocation, to heed this call, he will take us through the stage of spiritual conception in the first bright beams of the Light to fertility and maturity as the Life and Love of the same Light perfect our lives. But to begin to be touched by the Light, our minds must move out of primordial darkness to the space and place that is before all beginnings, into the source and origin of all that comes to be and passes away. St. John draws our minds up and into what is beyond and before all things. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Same was in the beginning with God. (St. John i. 1) Before the possibility of any birth, old or new, earthly or heavenly, there is the Father, His Word, and the Spirit, one God who exists forever and without any change. With John we are invited to come out of the spiritual darkness to see God’s Word, Christ the Light, whom the Spirit of Love begets eternally from the Father. Before we are spiritually born again, we must see that Christ the Son of God comes from the Father before all beginnings.
But as soon as our minds come into this Light, we begin to see that this is the Life who longs with everlasting Love to make all things other than Himself. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was Life; and the Life was the Light of men. And the Light shineth in darkness; and the darkness overcame it not. (Ibid, 3-5) The Father’s Eternal Word is the Life that not only enlivens and quickens all of creation but gives Light or lends meaning to all that He has made. He with His Word commanded all to be/ and all obeyed Him, for that Word was He! (Davideis: Cowley) This Light shines in the darkness and so calls us forward into the new birth of a knowledge that sees all meaning and purpose as coming from God and made to be returned to Him also. John knows that the minds of the wise are lucid by reason of a participation in that Divine Light and Wisdom. So by the lack of it they are darkness. (T.A. Comm. John, 1)
Yet there is more to this Living Light of Love. This is that true Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew him not. He came unto His own and His own received Him not. (Ibid, 9-11) The Light intends not only to be known but to be embraced as the brightness of God’s Glory, the express Image of His Person. (Hebr. i. 3) The Word of God, Christ the Light, has never ceased to desire and long for His people. In His Light, we come to see his meaning and purpose for us. In His Light, we come also to see our failure to receive His Love and cradle it in our hearts. The world knew Him not...His own received Him not. (Idem) In His Light we see that while we were made to partake of His Life and to receive His Love, our sin forever frustrates His will. This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (St. John iii. 19) In the Light of His Life, God is Love. In the darkness of sin’s death, we reject it. We have become wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. (2 Peter ii. 17) Still, with John we realize that God has never ceased to desire man’s new birth and new life in the Light of His Love.
The birth of John’s new knowledge generates within him a deeper gratitude for the longing and yearning that is forever being reborn from this Life. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (Ibid, 12, 13) He writes with earnest hope: A new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in Him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true Light now shineth. (1 John ii. 8) In this Light, John sees that for the invisible, incomprehensible, and inconceivable Word of God to be born, man must welcome His Life and Love from the depth of the human heart with faith. For John sees that we cannot do it from passions born from the desires of the flesh, nor even from the will of man’s human heart. The generation of the sons of God will not be carnal but spiritual, because they are born of God. (T.A., idem) John understands that he is born again by the Grace of God alone. So, in the everlastingly-begotten Light of God’s Love, he realizes the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.( Ibid, 14) The reason that compels his conclusion is that we beheld His glory, as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of Grace and Truth. (Idem) John looks back over a very long life and kno nws that the Jesus who first loved us and to whose Love John makes a good return is the same Christ who has been made flesh and dwelt among us. (Idem) John sees too that the same Life whose Light has imparted nothing but God’s Love to him is the same Word of God who, in the flesh, has redeemed our flesh and shall enliven our souls once again.
John reveals to us his experience of Jesus Christ. This experience endured throughout the earthly life of his Master, the Messiah. This experience persevered through the Lord’s Ascent back to the Father and into Pentecostal rapture and transformation. What John experienced was the Glory of God in Jesus Christ. What John experienced were signs and evidences that this Jesus was not merely another well-intentioned human prophet. Rather, in Jesus he found the wellspring of eternally-begotten new birth that was being imparted to all men as the trigger and catalyst of the Love that would return all men to God. He found in Jesus the desire to share new birth and new life. He found in Jesus one who would make all things new through redemptive passion that would save the whole world. In Jesus, John discovered that the desire to create and redeem are but two names for that one uninterrupted eternal Love of God through which He returns all men to Himself.
John traces the Light -the Glory of God, from Jesus’ earthly existence back to Heavenly Love. Through the innocent suffering and death of Jesus who made Atonement for man’s sins in His Crucifixion, in the new Life that His Resurrection and Glorious Ascension establish, and in the coming down of Love again to be born again in the hearts and souls of His newfound friends, John sees nothing but God’s the Light of God’s Glory. He writes:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life…that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
The joy he shares with us is in the birth of His Eternal Life and Love because God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all. (1 St. John i. 5) The joy he shares with us, under the light of the North Star, is the birth of the babe of Bethlehem. The joy he shares with us is born of Virgin in a place of little to no significance, in poverty and unknown to most men. In awesome wonder, then, on this Christmas night, with St. John and the poet, let us sing of this Light that even now intends to be born in our hearts as new Life and Love as He was born for us in Bethlehem.
Welcome to our Wondering Sight,
Eternity shut in a span!
Summer in Winter, Day in Night!
Heaven in earth! And God in man!
Great little one, whose glorious birth,
Lifts earth to Heaven, stoops Heaven to earth!
St. Michael and All Angels Sermons