Light from Life

In John’s Gospel we get a very different take on the Christmas story. Gone are the historical hooks: the census, the trip to Bethlehem, the wise men and the shepherds. Gone is the picture of Joseph and Mary in the stable. Instead, we are given a broader perspective on proceedings.

First of all, we are told that the subject of this whole episode is, and was, the Word – that which was with God in the absolute beginning. In fact, through this Word the entire universe that we inhabit came into existence.

The coming of this Word into his own creation is remarkable. 
 We know that Jesus would later announce that he is the light of the world, and that following his light would bring life, but there’s another element that we tend to skip over without recognising it for what it is. The light itself is not what brings life, but it is the life behind it – that self-same Word.

John 1:4 tells us: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

The light that we receive, that we follow, derives from that very life of God himself, through the Word. The I AM is the life behind the light.  So, the one through whom everything that was made has been made is the same life that lights that first Christmas, and every Christmas since then. It is the power of that life that ensures to us that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hasn’t been able to overcome it. Encapsulated in that fragile package who Mary, Joseph, shepherds, and wise men adored was all the power of the Creator of the universe!

And yet, remarkably, in becoming human, Jesus, the Word, became one of us, and ‘came to his own’. How sad then, that so many of us refuse him, not just at Christmas, but throughout our lives. The fantastic news is that this same Word is returning to his creation, but this time in all the power that we read of here. It’s one thing to reject a poor innocent and fragile baby. It’s another thing entirely to reject the One who is life itself and the source of all that was, all that is, and all that will be.

There’s only one thing we can honestly do: bow our knee to the Creator of the universe, made man for our sake, and worship him as the life who brings us light.

Light from Life

What’s in a gift? What can we bring?

I’ve just returned from a bit of last minute shopping. It’s frantic Friday – everyone is rushing, pushing, searching, trying to put the finishing touches on the event that Christmas has become.

I was musing recently about why we give gifts at Christmas. Is it because we think of Jesus as God’s gift to us, or perhaps because the wise men brought gifts. It’s impossible to equate even the most extravagant Christmas gift with the giving of Jesus for us. Although Jesus is ours, he is never ours in the sense of a possession, something we own. He is ours, because we are his, and he is everything.

So that brings us to the wise men and the reasons for their offerings. First of all, the wise men were rather late to the party. Although they set out when they saw the star rise, it took some time to arrive at Bethlehem. Mary, Joseph and Jesus were no longer in the stable, and Jesus was an infant child, not a new born baby. But that in itself tells us something about Christmas – it was an event so monumental that the wise men were determined to pursue what they had discovered, even at such cost in terms of time and energy. I don’t know how far east they had come from, but judging by the age of the children that Herod murdered, it was some distance. This was more than curiosity, it was a conviction that the rising star bore real significance.

For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.
Matthew 2:2

Worship is a serious business, and these wise men were serious about worshipping the new king.

When they arrived at the house, the wise men did indeed worship Jesus, and they offered gifts to him. But those gifts were not toys or trinkets to be played with. The gifts themselves were an act of worship.

Perhaps we will come late to the real meaning of this party too. It may be well after the decorations have come down that we can objectively think about how we should treat Jesus, but here’s some food for thought for when you get there.

We are told that the wise men ‘offered him gifts’ (Matthew 2:11). The important word is ‘offered’. It’s quite a common word in the New Testament. We read of it when the people brought Jesus the sick and the demon oppressed. We read of it when the paralytic was lowered down from the roof. We read of it when a blind, mute, demon possessed man was brought to be healed. We read of it when the little children were brought before him.

Yes, we bring our offering of worship to the incarnate God – Immanuel, God with us; Jesus, God saves. But we come too, knowing our need, knowing that there is only one who can heal, restore, forgive. We offer ourselves not because we can give to him, but because he alone can save. And, strangely, these two, worship and petition go hand in hand with our loving God. No matter what state we find ourselves in this Christmas, know this, that Jesus welcomes all who will come and offer themselves to him. ‘I won’t reject anyone who comes to me’ Jesus would later say.

So, when you are struggling with the busyness, or the obligations, or just the whole commercial weight that is heaped on our Christmas celebration, remember the lines of the Christmas carol, and take them to heart:

Yet what can I give Him?
Give Him my heart.

And give him your heart in worship and in need. Jesus is more than willing and able to meet that need and accept that worship.

What’s in a gift? What can we bring?