John begins his account of the life of Jesus with the reading you just heard. It is rich, meaningful, complicated and an entire PhD dissertation could be written about those few paragraphs. Many dissertations, in fact, have been written about them. And books too. And courses taught. And lives fully dedicated to their understanding.
It is not at all like the versions from Matthew and Luke that we see on Christmas cards and hear in carols. John’s Gospel does not have the shepherds, angels, a bright star, the manger or magi.
Instead, John tells us: “… the light shines in darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.“
So much about our faith can be summarized by this simple expression: “There is more there than meets the eye.”
There is more there than meets the eye…
A light shining in the night sky signifies the greatest single event in the history of humanity.
A helpless newborn lying in a manger will save us all from despair and hopelessness.
A small group of weak and imperfect followers form a Church that repeatedly overcomes failings and mistakes and perseveres for thousands of years.
And you and I, possessing sinful natures and comprised of matter that can’t possibly endure, are endowed with a soul that is built to last forever.
So very often, there is more there than meets the eye. There is a deeper truth. There is the sacramental reality of that star, the baby, the disciples of Jesus, and us.
Christmas is the story of that deeper truth and it is so beautifully and so powerfully represented as light emerging out of the darkness. The Gospel writer, John, tell us very clearly that “the darkness has not overcome it.” That means that there is no evil, or suffering, or misfortune… there is no pandemic or tragedy that can ultimately overcome this light. This is the essence of hope. Regardless of whatever darkness we face, it can never overcome the light. The light that is Christ.
What a miracle that we have received this great gift.
The Gospel writer also states: “… to those who did accept him, he gave power to become children of God.”
The gift we receive is freely given. It is meant for us to open like a brightly wrapped present on Christmas morning. And it is destined to become our most impactful and most important gift of all time. But there is something we must do. We must accept it. We must embrace it. And we must live a life worthy of this gift.
We accept this gift every time we…
… prioritize prayer, adoration and Mass over the million other things we could be doing.
Every time we choose forgiveness over resentment.
Every time we make a decision by asking ourselves this question first: “does this move me closer to Jesus?”
Every time we actively reject hatred, racism, and division.
Every time we stand up, proud of who we are and what we believe in, and whenever we show others just how good the Good News actually can be.
Every time we see Christ in the face of others, including the times when that is really difficult.
Every time we take the long view and see the big picture, realizing that part of us is going to fade away… for lack of a better way to say it, while another part of us is meant to walk forward and toward the one who lovingly created us and who ever beckons us home and toward eternity.
Every time we reach for the light and hold out hope, despite the darkness we encounter.
And every time we acknowledge that in order to accept the gift we have been given, and bathe ourselves within the light of Christmas, we must ourselves be light in darkness. We are the Church – a small group of weak and imperfect followers who, despite our own failings and mistakes, carry this gift forward and into the future.
The miracle of Christmas is that we were given this awesome gift.
The miracle of Christmas is that when we accept it, truly accept it, then we become so, so much more than meets the eye.