The Light & The Darkness: A Christmas Eve Sermon

It's Christmas Eve, and once again our community of faith is gathered to celebrate the birth of the Christ child.

There's something about this night that brings us together---even those of us for whom church is not part of or regularly scheduled programming.

I have a soft spot in my heart for the non-Church-y people who find their way to church on Christmas Eve.  There were a lot of years when I wasn't really the church going type, you see.  In fact, not only was church not part of my regularly scheduled programming, I had pretty much cancelled it from my life altogether.  But when Christmas Eve would come around again, as it seems to do each year, I'd discover myself sitting in a pew, showered, shaved and wearing somewhat respectable church clothes.

I think the reason why I showed up was because there was part of me that wanted to believe everything that everyone around me was singing and praying. I wanted to believe in the story of Hope that the various pastors I encountered offered in their sermons.

We all need to believe, don't we?  Even those of us who don't admit it.

This Christmas Eve seems a bit different for me, though.  I think there are a lot of people this year who are struggling with belief, and may be struggling with hope as well.  The world just feels a little darker right about now, doesn't it?

There are 27 candles lit on the tables in both of our worship services to remind us of the lives that were needlessly taken this month in Newtown, CT.  Our nation has mourned the loss of these innocents, and rightly so.  Tonight must be especially hard for those parents who held funerals for their children last week---children who should be anticipating Christmas Day, perhaps attending a candlelight service with their families.

These are hard things to think about on this night.  These are thoughts filled with darkness.

The world that Jesus entered into on that night so long ago was full of darkness, too.  It was a world full of violence, oppression of the poor and the weak.  A world where the power of the Roman Empire seemed all-powerful, and God seemed very, very silent.

Joseph and Mary found themselves homeless refugees, forced by the government to comply with an empire-wide census, but with no place to stay, no family nearby and nothing but darkness enfolding them.

The stable where Jesus was born that night of nights was nothing more than a cave carved into the side of a hill.  The manger where he was laid was probably a huge stone with a groove carved into it that was filled with straw.  If there were cows, they probably weren't lowing gently---they were smelling up the place and making a racket.

The shepherds that arrived that night were rough men, who smelled of sheep---and were not fit to even worship with decent people.

None of that mattered.  The Light of the World had come, and all of those things, the roughness, the hopelessness, homelessness, fear and doubt all faded away.  The Light was shining in the darkness.

I imagine that some of us who gather tonight are feeling the weight of the darkness.  It might even feel like the darkness is enveloping us, and threatening what little light we have left.

I want you to hear the words of the Gospel of John:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
I want you to repeat this after me...  "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

The darkness... has not overcome it.

I know that it seems dark right now.  I know that the news isn't that great.  I know that there are so many of us who are hurting, and who are holding on to that last bit of hope.  Maybe you walked into church tonight, and you don't really know why.  You are showered, shaved and you are wearing respectable looking church-y type clothes.  And you want to believe.

My friend, the first step toward believing is embracing the One who came to dispel the darkness.  I am talking about Jesus---the Light of the World.

The darkness does not get to win.  Evil does not get to win.  None of these things will get the last word.  The Light has come.  And the darkness cannot overcome it.

Say it with me... "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

Go in peace, and may the Light of the World shine on you this night and forever more.

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