If you were asked to sum up Jesus’ life and teachings in one word, what would you choose? There’s a good chance you would choose the word, love. The third verse of “Silent Night” describes the Christ child as “Son of God, love’s pure light” and his birth is the “dawn of redeeming grace.” The unconditional love of God is revealed in the coming of this child whose birth we celebrate.
The first chapter of the gospel of John puts it this way:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it . . . The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world . . .
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth . . . From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace . . . No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” (John 1:1-5, 9, 14, 16, 18)
Not too long ago, Scientific American magazine had a fascinating article on Light Therapy. Light — sometimes in the form of laser light — is being used to bring about healing in so many areas. The article speaks of the healing power of light. The Good News of Christmas is the Good News of the healing power of light — the light of Christ’s love, which makes us whole and gives us life.
Love stands at the heart of Christmas. God became incarnate in a baby, and that baby grew to adulthood and he gathered around him men and women that he called to be join him in being light to the world. We are those men and women today. We are the ones Christ has called to love the world as he loved the world.
During the Second World War, a man named Alexander Papaderos who was born in Crete endured a terrible tragedy when his hometown was destroyed by the Nazis. Alexander, still a child, was then interned in a concentration camp.
After the war he was determined to be a force for peace and forgiveness. He studied theology in the Greek Orthodox Church and in 1965 opened an institute designed to promote peace and reconciliation. He located it at Maleme, the site where German paratroopers landed and one of the wars worst atrocities was unleashed. The paratroopers met resistance from islanders bearing nothing other than kitchen knives and hay scythes. The consequences of resistance were devastating. The residents of entire villages were lined up and shot.
One day while taking questions at the end of a lecture Papaderous was asked, “What’s the meaning of life?” There was nervous laughter in the room. It is such a big question. But Papaderous said, “I will answer it.”
He opened his wallet, took out a small, round mirror and held it up for everyone to see. During the war he was just a small boy from a very poor family when he came across a motorcycle wreck. The motorcycle had belonged to German soldiers. Alexander saw pieces of broken mirrors from the motorcycle lying on the ground. He tried to put them together but couldn’t, so he took the largest piece and scratched it against a stone until its edges were smoothed and it was round. He used it as a toy, fascinated by the way he could use it to shine light into holes and crevices.
He kept that mirror with him as he grew up, and over time it came to symbolize something very important. It became a metaphor for what he might do with his life.
He said, “I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world — into the darkness in the hearts of men and women — and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of my life.”
During Advent and Christmas, we often focus on ways we demonstrate love more concretely. When Jesus gathered men and women whom he called to be the lights of the world, he instructed them to love the world as he loves the world. How might you reflect the love of “God’s pure light” in your own life? (Be specific!) Where and when will this be most challenging for you? What best reflects that light for you in your own times of darkness?
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster
Luke 2:13-20 (NRSV)
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
John 1:1-18 (NRSV)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
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 into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.