In him was life and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness could not overcome it. – John 1:4-5
When I was in Seminary, I was on staff at First UMC in Crossville, TN and would commute 170 miles each way up Highway 127 (the highway famous for its long yard sale) every week in order to attend Asbury Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky just outside of Lexington. I always had a class at 8:00 AM on Tuesday morning which was 7:00 am central time. I would stay in an old campground dorm while I was in Wilmore, but in order to get everything I needed to get done at the church before leaving and in order to spend some time with my Heather, I would either wait until she went to sleep on Monday night before leaving or I would wake up at 2:00 am Tuesday morning in order to make the almost 4 hour drive up and be on time for my first class. Either way I left, I would always arrive on campus with it still dark out. It was a standard thing for me to lack the proper amount of sleep, so those drives late night or early morning were always challenging. I incorporated many tools to make sure I stayed awake. There were a few times when I was really concerned about safely arriving, especially traveling through the snow in the winter that Kentucky seemed to always get.
But all of my concern would fade away when I hit a certain high point on the highway that allowed me to see off in the distance as the crow flies and I could see the Wilmore, Kentucky water tower that had a large lit up cross on top of it. I could see it probably 10-15 minutes before I actually arrived in Wilmore. Once I saw that light, I knew I would be ok, and it gave me the energy I needed to make it the rest of the way.
We don’t always have such a clear image of light that reminds us we are going to be ok, but we always have those. Every season of life has aspects of it that are dark. Some are darker than others, but in the midst of it we always look for the light. In the most famous of Psalms, the 23rd, it reminds us that we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Notice it doesn’t say as we walk through the valley of death, but the valley of the shadow of death. Death can feel like an all encompassing darkness, but notice that there is a shadow, and a shadow can only exist in the presence of light. We might not be able to see it directly, but when we see a shadow, the light is just around the corner.
On the night of Christ’s birth, there was a lot of darkness not unlike today, but something did change that day. The Gospel writer John wants to make sure you do not miss it so he does not bring into the Christmas story Mary and Joseph or animals or shepherds or angels. To him, he wants his reader to understand the best news – the light has come into the world and the darkness cannot overcome it.
There is a permanent light in this world now because of Jesus that when we see it, we can know that we are going to be ok.