"Not About You"
Rev. Ryan Slifka
The Gospel of John begins with the passage we just had read this morning. It begins by announcing that God's Word—the same word spoken in the first chapter of the book of Genesis way back at the beginning of time “let there be light”—has somehow, mysteriously become flesh in in a human being, Jesus of Nazareth. And this Word will bring light to the darkness of the world.
Throughout the rest of the gospel, John shows that those who believe in him, those who trust their lives and future to him and walk in his Way, will experience life in its abundance, life in the full. Life as it was always meant to be. Life everlasting and eternal. Here and now. “What has come into being in him was life,” says John, “And the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Jesus comes in to our darkness and our chaos, like the vast chaotic darkness at the beginning of creation, and says “let there be light.”
The beginning of John, the incarnation, Christmas, is all about God’s coming for us. It’s beautiful. It’s poetic. It’s musical, even. God bringing light to our darkness. But let me confess something. That when Christmas comes along I have this urge deep inside of me to put out on the church sign in big red letters, words blinking, flashing on and on: “Christmas: It’s not about you.” So much of Christianity has focussed on us—our personal relationship with God, whether we are going to heaven or not. Whether I take Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. As much as I do believe that Christmas is about us—and about our personal relationship with God—I think this misses something. It’s about us. But it’s not just about us. It’s so much more.
Did you notice this funny little paragraph in the middle of the John reading? It starts with this “in the beginning was the word, the word made flesh,” etc. But then immediately shifts to this: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming in to the world.” John is sent by God, it says, sure. But it’s not about John. It’s not about his spirituality or his personal experience even. John isn’t the light. He’s the lamp who’s been lit. John is like someone who takes the witness stand and says “here’s what I saw.” And to quote the late, great Hank Williams, John says “I saw the light.” This whole thing isn’t about John. But John is about Jesus. A life that John says “is the light of all people.”
It’s almost like John knows his audience so well that he has to remind them one paragraph in that it’s not all about them. It’s about God. It’s like John knows us so well, too, that we are so likely to turn the story of the Creator’s love that pans out on the whole universe, to zoom in directly on us. To be about our relationship with God. Our spiritual growth. Our personal salvation. And to end there with what God can do for us. But here he reminds us that like John, we too are not the light.
Nonetheless, we are here for an eternal purpose, one that is not our own. That we are not the light, but we are witnesses to the, bearers of the light. Those of us who experience the incredible love of God in Christ that touches down on Christmas are not meant to keep the light to ourselves. But to hold it up, to witness to it, point people to it, testify to it. So all the world can see. And that its darkness may be drawn into the light of God’s love. And ultimately cast out of the world. Forever.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” The world. The light of the world. One that has promised to shine in us. And through us.
May the same eternal light that was in Christ Jesus be the light in you. And one that in you and through you, shines on all who you meet. AMEN.