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

Beware of being religious!

Matthew 12:9-14 tells the story of Jesus going to the synagogue one Sabbath day. It’s the equivalent of our going to church on a Sunday morning. When Jesus arrives there is a crowd centred around a helpless man. He is helpless because his hand is withered, and that puts him at the bottom of the heap, unable to work in meaningful way, unable to provide, and despised.

Jesus’ immediate response is to liken this poor man to a sheep in trouble and himself to the shepherd who, of course will help the helpless sheep. And with that he heals the man! The Pharisees’ response is to conspire to destroy Jesus!

Beware of being religious! The Pharisees were the respectable face of religion in Jesus’ day. They would have been the ones in the suits, with large, obviously read Bibles, the smart, well to do pillars of society that stood around in lobbies and hob nobbed with the professional church leaders, that ran things; they would have been, on the surface, the pinnacle of church life. People looked up to them. Sadly, they looked down on people!

The man with the withered hand was not respectable, he was not looked up to, he was looked down on and despised by the religious synagogue worshippers.

Our response to good done by others or received by others is very telling. If, like the Pharisees, we resent the good done in Christ by others for others then we need to re-evaluate our faith. As Jesus pointed out in the parable of the moneylender in Luke 7:47, those who are forgiven little love little. The most genuine faith in and love for God is generally found in those who have been lifted from sin, not those who come from a religious background.

The irony is that we are all forgiven much – many of us just fail to see it! And that in itself is a grievous sin!

So, we should see ourselves in the helpless man and not in the Pharisee. We should rejoice to see others lifted, healed, restored, forgiven, and rejoice to see other believers being the people God uses to bring about that restoration. Jealousy of those who are doing good or who have received good has no place in the Kingdom of Heaven!

Don’t look down on the rough and ready, the needy, the less cultured or educated – that is the religion of the Pharisees. Don’t ever forget that you, personally, have been forgiven much, and love much in return. Love God, love Jesus, love Jesus’ people.

Beware of being religious!