Christmas Eve – Monday, December 24, 2018, 11pm

December 24, 2018  

John 1:1-14

We were standing in total, complete darkness.
Our guide had just turned off the only light—a single light bulb suspended from the ceiling.
We were crowded into a small space, maybe ¼ the size of this chapel. There were 20 or so of us standing. In the dark.

It was the root cellar of a house in Memphis, Tennessee.
The house was built by Jacob Burkle, a white man who operated the stockyards in Memphis. He began harboring runaway slaves in his cellar around 1855, continuing to shelter them until the abolition of slavery. His was one house of many that constituted the Underground Railroad (slavehavenmemphis.com).

As I stood in the darkness I tried to imagine what it must have been like for the people fleeing slavery, what it must have been like to hide in the dark, to move from place to place under cover of darkness. To fear being seen in the light of day.

In the gospel of John it is written: what has come into being in him [the Word/Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it” (1:4-5).

Darkness is not evil.
During the time of slavery, darkness brought cover, darkness brought safety, darkness led to freedom. It was the light that was feared.
Imagine hiding in a dark cellar—and someone turning on a light. Back then, it would have been someone lighting a candle or a lantern. Imagine the panic that would have ensued. Or, if not panic, imagine the deflating, deafening feeling of defeat.

We use the language of light and dark loosely in our Christian tradition.
I’d like to reclaim both.

Darkness is not evil. What happens in the dark can be. Just as light is not inherently good. What happens in the light can be.

What happens in the dark can be good. What happens in the light can be evil.

John wrote that Jesus said “I am the light of the world” (8:12).

Born in the dark of night, love came. Freedom came—freedom from sin. Peace came—a peace that passes all human understanding. Joy came – the joy of eternal salvation. All born in the dark of night.

The light of Jesus fills the darkness. The light of Jesus shines, illuminating both good and evil. The light, the warmth of Jesus’ love strengthens what is good, weakens what is evil.

Jesus, the light of the world. Has come. He came in the dark of night.
And he brought salvation.

Amen.