John 1:1–14 (NIV)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
With poetic artistry, the gospel’s author closes this introduction where it began, bringing full circle the beginning and, what would be, the end. In the beginning was the Word, life itself, form and formation found in him, and the hope of the ages. And though we’re not yet to the timeless tale of Christmas Day, the text invites us to fully prepare for what’s coming. He doesn’t want us to miss the point and power of the story he’ll unfold. So upfront, before we know the details of who this Messiah is and what he came to accomplish, John tells us of the glory they have witnessed and shares its significance with us. “We have seen his glory!” Like he’s shaking us at the shoulders, waking us up to what he has seen, and hoping we will catch a glimpse of the light of that glory too. The King is coming. John awakens us to the gift so we don’t miss its arrival.
The one who was with the Father in the beginning and brought all things into being, that same Savior of life and light, is entering in with grace and truth. The Advent season means holding the tension of darkness and light. But sometimes, it’s also catching a glimpse of the light breaking in as it gently shifts our focus away from the consuming darkness.
My mind can sometimes be an anxious and overwhelming place. On restless nights, when the dark seems to gather in, suffocating me with its fear or uncertainty, there are moments when it’s easy to believe the morning will never come. We can rationally know the sun will rise in just a few hours, but it can feel like time stands still and the darkness will never end when we’re in the deepest parts of the night. But eventually, something wonderful happens; the rays of morning light begin to break over the horizon. When they do, though the darkness is still greater than the light, you breathe a sigh of relief, catch a glimpse of glory, and grow in hopeful excitement that the light is coming. The worst of the night is finally behind you, and you can begin to find relief in a new day. Because somehow, miraculously, the earth began turning and the light breaking in before you were ever aware of its rising. The sun starts its rise before we’re ever aware of it. This gospel, in its beginning, is so intentional that it eagerly shares the light of a new day with us, that we might be renewed in hope and prepare ourselves to fully focus on the promise being fulfilled even while we anxiously endure the night. Once again, the author invites us to shift our focus from darkness to the victory of Christ’s light.
Early in our marriage (more than sixteen years ago now), Gabe and I experienced the pain of infertility and miscarriage. We lost three precious babies, all early in pregnancy, over one year. For six years, we walked through the gauntlet of doctor’s appointments, medicines, tests, and procedures that created the faintest glimmer of hope that maybe, one day, we would know the joy of having a baby, only for our hopes to be dashed by the darkness of death and despair. Though it’s too long of a story to cover today, one day, after struggling with letting go of the biological pursuit of growing our family and shifting toward adoption, I heard the Lord say into my life, “But I adopted you.” Much like the pieces of our passage that remind us, “to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” With his reminder that he had adopted me, I gladly and quickly looked forward to growing our family through adoption. Even though that process would be full of frustration, uncertainty, and fear, something significant shifted in my spirit; light broke forth in me.
The dawn that broke over the horizon of my darkness was the hope-filled certainty that one day, though I wouldn’t know when, I would have the gift I had longed for. One day, I would hold a baby in my arms. After years of treatments that may lead to life, we were starting a process that was certain to bring life. The road to adoption might be long, and filled with its own heartbreak, but it didn’t quite have the dark uncertainty that loss and infertility did. Knowing one day, I’d hold my baby gave me joyful strength to journey through the night toward the morning. (And sure enough, faster than we could have planned or anticipated, the Lord brought us the gift of a beautiful baby boy through the selflessness of another’s love.) In the days of starting the process, filling out paperwork, and going to classes, the “promise” of what was coming gave us enough hope to prepare for a baby’s arrival.
The gift of John’s declaration that he had witnessed Christ’s glory is the joy-filled certainty that the dawn has broken in. And as people who live in the days following Christ’s arrival, we have the extra joy of knowing that the promised appearance of Christ on earth has already been fulfilled. And if God has been good on that promise, then the promise of his return is a certainty too. We’re standing on our tiptoes in the wee hours of the morning, eagerly waiting for the light—totally confident it’s coming.
As if the joy of that already fulfilled, yet soon to break in promise wasn’t enough—that the King was coming—the author of life, and light of the world, chose to make his dwelling with us. A king, the creator of the full expanse of the universe, from the microscopic atom to the largest expanse of space, humbled himself in lowly position, with such great love, to know and be known with us. It’s a glorious dawn and a deeply personal one too.
God of glory, we praise you today as we bask in the light of your in-breaking dawn. Thank you for reminding us of these powerful promises that give us joy as the darkness fades into the security of the coming light. We pray, that in fresh ways, we would catch a glimpse of your glory and that its power would renew our joy today as we hold the tension between darkness and light. Thank you for your love that breaks through, enters in, and dwells with us. As we continue this beginning in Advent, help us to hold tightly to the promise, through anything still to come, that you are our hope in all things. In the name of our coming-again Christ, amen.
Where in your life right now can you see the hope of a new day? Is there a place where you can see the darkness turning a corner toward dawn and find God’s glory breaking in through your life? If you’re currently in a dark and painful place and can’t see a glimmer of hope, is there a time in the past you can recall God’s goodness breaking in as a reminder that he will do it again? As we leave the gospel of John today and continue to prepare the way for Christmas in other passages, what from this text will you carry with you?
For the Awakening,