John 1:1–4 (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.
Four little verses that hold within their words a complexity that we could spend lifetimes learning. In my best, far from theological, summation of them, we hear these foundational truths of God—that God existed in the beginning, in relationship with himself, creating all things through himself, and holding within the Godhead the fullness of life itself. Power, possibility, and purpose are held together in the fullness of time within God.
Yet, all that life, the “everything” of God, wasn’t held in private or kept in isolation; it refracted from its source into the world. Within the very nature and character of God is the tendency toward reflection. Light reflects. I’m no scientist, but simple observation would tell me that light, by its nature, is self-giving. Its design is to push beyond itself into the world. And in quite possibly the greatest revelation of this passage, one that reflects the gospel itself, we learn that the life and fullness found in Christ is reflected into the whole world. The very life of Christ, all its power, possibility, and purpose, is, by its nature, self-giving, self-propelling, and outbound.
As the light of Christmas begins to break in, in us, it may begin with the awe-inspiring, humbling awareness that Christ himself, in his very nature, displays his goodness in his self-reflecting love. And that love isn’t restricted or diminished in some capacities instead of others; it is light for all. It’s a world-traveling, globe-stretching, multi-generational, universal reality. Life in Christ is light for the world. Like light itself, Christ’s very nature is propelled forward for the sake of others.
It’s funny how we tend to misunderstand, misrepresent, and underestimate that reality. We ask questions about our purpose, life’s meaning, personal fulfillment, and love as if its source or the completeness we find in it has ever been in question. In Christ is the function and fullness of life for all people in such a powerful way that it is the light that bears hope for all people. But the darkness of our failed, sinful humanity seems to butt against that light at every turn.
I’m a preacher’s kid. From the earliest moments of my life, my formation primarily happened in the pews. (Sometimes, as I crawled underneath them or raced my friends around them as I waited for my father to stop talking so we could finally leave.) I so happily sang Christmas songs with cotton balls stuck to my face as a sheep in the kid’s Christmas pageant. Youth group, summer camps, altar calls, and the love of dozens of Grandmas and Grandpas all displayed for me the love of Jesus. My parents were faithful, obedient, generous, and regularly exemplified a life surrendered to Christ. There is not a day of my existence that I haven’t been wildly aware of God’s great love for me. Yet, from time to time, I find myself uncertain or distant from the love I rationally know. Or, I find myself in the oh-so-natural habit of thinking what I do (or don’t do) earns that love.
But if God is the everything of life, the power, possibility, and purpose displayed in the selfless reflection of love into the world, then that same love is a constant, unchanging reality, not dependent on me at all. Light begins to break through our darkness when we awaken to the reality of the constancy of the light of God’s love and let its reflection begin to radiate through us. The more I lose myself in the life and light of Christ instead of me or my circumstance; the more light breaks through in me. And because it’s a constant, unchanging reality (because it comes from within the very nature and character of God himself), the reality of that love being available for all people across all time is unchanging too.
At Christmas, we hold the tender balance of preparing for the celebration of a helpless child’s birth while recognizing the fullness of life, power, and light that he will bring. Beginning our Advent in Christ’s beginning, reminding ourselves of who Christ has always been, will make the fullness of the season and the reality of the incarnation, as powerful as it was meant to be, a life-changing, earth-shaking, turn-all-the-lights-on moment in time, that would reflect his glorious light for ages to come.
Light reflects. And the light of Christ, and the life found in him, is the reflection of God that illuminates everything. It’s a light that can break through in you to reveal new waves of love and grace. And it’s a light that can reflect through you to others who need the same.
Father God, author of life, giver of all grace, we stand in awe and wonder of the reality of you. You are life and light. And you so radiate your power and goodness into the world that it has changed the course of human history and simultaneously reached in to change us. It’s beyond our comprehension that your nature is self-giving, reflecting your goodness beyond yourself for our sake. As we consider the light of Christ this Christmas, help us bask in the radiance of that reflection and get lost in the warmth and goodness of your light. And, as you’ve displayed for us, may we grow to reflect your light around us. Where we are resistant and forgetful, may the life we find in you make those dim places brighter in your light. Amen.
What does it mean for you that God’s nature is self-propelling, reflective, and outwardly radiant? Are there places in you where you’ve forgotten how bright and constant that reflection is? Places that have grown dim in relationship with him? Where in your life, right now, do you need to bask in the radiance of God’s life and light, and be consumed by it?
For the Awakening,