“All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”
The words of the Evangelist describe the power that the Word of God has. That Word which “was with God” and “was God” brings life to this world. By His being spoken, the Son of God brings the universe into existence. By His being spoken “He upholds the universe,” as the Epistle Writer declares to the Hebrew Christians. This Word of God is dynamic, bringing things into being and sustaining them.
But the Word of God is more than a creating force. Certainly, that role is important and should not be overlooked. Yet, the act of creation is not how true life is given. Once it was so. God the Father spoke the Word and everything perfectly came into being.
“Very good,” however, does not correctly describe the world now, for everything has been tainted by sin. Full of death the world goes on. It taunts its Creator by its actions. But the same Eternal Word of God who made and shaped this creation acts to restore it. He will not have His “very good” creation eternally bound and corrupted by sin and death. No, the dark forces of pure and utter evil will be dispelled and life will come forth in its place.
That is what the Evangelist depicts happening with the Incarnation of Our Lord: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The creating force becomes part of the creation in order to redeem and restore it. The Son of God is the opposite of what sin had caused. The world was full of wrath and lies; the Word was “full of grace and truth.” The world was dark with death; “in [the Word] was life, and the life was the light of men.”
The appearance of the Incarnate Son of God, the Word of God in the flesh, marks the display of divine power to effect great change. He comes to act with righteousness and mercy, to free people and the rest of creation from their self-imposed bonds of sin. The Eternal Word of God sees the plight of the world He has made and says: “No more! It shall not be this way! My will for this world shall not longer be thwarted. What was once very good shall return to that state!” So He acts to save. And the only way to save is to get His hands dirty with the sin and filth and decay in order to cleanse and purify it.
The Incarnation of Christ is that act of salvation. For what the Son of God would do on this earth brings about the redemption of the world. Isaiah’s prophecy declares: “The Lord has bared His holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” The Lord God makes His salvation visible. It is seen in everything that He does as both God and Man, the divine who takes on human nature. The Word of God in the flesh speaks and acts, and what is seen is the divine glory used to overcome sinfulness.
Think on what John means when he says: “We have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” What had John seen? What would cause him to make such a statement? The Evangelist saw Christ heal the sick, restore sight to the blind, make the lame walk, cast out demons, raise the dead. The cancer and mutation that sin brings about were overcome. The death in the world is conquered by the life in the Word. But not only does the Son of God do these things, He also experiences them. He Himself dies and rises again, the true expression of divine glory.
Why is this so? Because “in Him was life, and the life was the light of man.” In Christ was found everything good, everything pure, everything true, everything that the world had lost. And as that righteousness, purity, and truth was once again found in the creation, it shone like a beacon in the darkness. Just as the Word of God was first spoken and brought light into the dark chaos of the primordial world, so His light entered the dismal disaster of the sinful creation. But “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
No, the darkness did not drown out the light of Christ. It could not do so. Instead, His righteousness, purity, and truth remain present in the world today. It is here for you who walk in the shadows of death and the darkness of sin. It is present for you to see and receive, so that you may have Christ’s life in you—“the light of men” that are benighted by their sinfulness.
Christ’s presence in this world is for your benefit, so that you may live. It is His Father’s will for you. The Epistle Writer describes the Father’s Son who came to this world: “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power.” That is who Christ is. Even as the Babe of Bethlehem, He is the Son of God in human form. But the author also tells you what the Christ has done: “After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” His presence in this world was to purify you of your guilt and imperfection, to cleanse you of your sin.
That is “the salvation of our God” which you and “the ends of the earth” see. It was on display in the miracles Jesus performed. But it was even more on display in the innocent suffering and death of the Incarnate Word who had life in Him. It was confirmed in the resurrection of that same Incarnate Word, as the darkness has not overcome Him. For through these acts—the acts of redemption—you have received light and life.
The Evangelist puts it so plainly well: “To all who did receive [the Word], who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” The divine will has been fulfilled for you. God the Father desires you to be His children, and His Eternal Son has done everything necessary for this to be so. The Word of God has spoken you into existence. As He was heard and believed by you, you were made children of God. You have been filled with life—true and real life—given by God Himself.
That is the importance of this day, why the Church continues to celebrate it, even as others attach so many different meanings to it. As you know your own darkness—your own sins, imperfections, faults, failures, habitual acts of transgression—you know your need for deliverance. As you feel its effects, the shadows and gloom overwhelm you. Your darkness must be dispelled. And it is, as you know and believe the light of Christ. As you confess His who He is and what He has done, you are enlightened, no longer subject to eternal death. Instead, you have Christ’s life, “the light of men,” within you. The light that the Son of God brings shines and your sinfulness will not overcome it.
For where Christ is present, there the glory of God, full of grace and truth, is found. It is present here, as the Word-made-flesh continues to speak and be heard. It is located here, as His Name is spoken and given to people in Holy Baptism. It is found here, as more and more are made children of God according to His will. He is even here, so that you may eat and drink to be filled with His salvation. The grace and truth of Christ is this: “for us and for our salvation He came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man.” Because this is so, you have witnessed His glory, the power used for you.
Exercised by Christ, that power has saved you. Made yours as the Eternal Word of God speaks to you, you have become children of God. For you have received Him and believed His Name. Trusting in His identity and works, you are now heirs of grace and truth instead of children of wrath and lies. Now His life is yours, the light that overcomes and purifies your sin. You have seen the salvation of your God with the eyes of faith. May you also witness it eye to eye, when you see the return of the Son of God who dwelt with mankind, so that you may eternally dwell with Him.
T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.