Connections 01.03.21: Light in the Darkness

John 1:1-18

This week’s lesson falls on the second Sunday of Christmas. That is also the Sunday before the Epiphany, which occurs on January 6. Both Christmas and Epiphany are about God’s revealing God’s self to the world in Jesus Christ. It is appropriate, then, that our lesson text consistently affirms that Jesus makes God known in and to the world.

I find myself particularly drawn to the parts of the passage that speak of Jesus as the light: “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (vv. 3b-5) and “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (v. 9).

I think those lines jump out at me because we are coming out of a very dark year. We hope that 2021 will be better (it feels better just to type “2021”). We’ll see.

There have been others, but the main source of darkness during the past year has been the COVID-19 pandemic and the various crises—personal, social, political, economic, vocational, structural, and institutional—connected with it. It has been difficult to deal with the losses caused by the coronavirus and with the denials and deceptions that have unnecessarily complicated the response.

Christians aren’t immune to the darkness. We can sense it as well as anyone. In fact, our heightened sensitivity to the suffering of others that God’s love, grace, and mercy produce in us might—and probably should—cause us to experience the darkness even more deeply.

Christians also don’t ignore the darkness. We walk right into it, knowing that even the deepest darkness can’t separate us from the love of God that we experience in Christ Jesus. We walk right into it, knowing that we carry the light of Jesus with us into any and every situation, no matter how challenging or threatening it is.

The transition from 2020 to 2021 is a good time to reflect on how faithful we’ve been to the light during the past year.

How well have we accepted and dealt with the reality of the human situation? We must acknowledge the darkness before we can offer the light. Ignoring the darkness and keeping the light to ourselves does no one any good.

How well have we embraced our role as bearers of Jesus’ light in this world? It’s no problem to shine a light when there is plenty of light around. On the other hand, a lot of light that claims to reflect Jesus’ light doesn’t really do so. Garish displays motivated by pride, defensiveness, or triumphalism do not bear witness to the way of Jesus. The simple light of love, grace, and mercy cuts through both the darkness and the artificial light.

The transition from 2020 to 2021 is also a good time to reflect on how we can be more faithful to the light in the coming year. Let’s commit to facing whatever darkness comes with the true light of Christ. The darkness did not, has not, and never will overcome it.

Discussion

  • What are some ways we can testify to the light?
  • Why is it difficult for people to recognize who Jesus is? Why is it vital that they do so?
  • What does it mean to be “born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God” (v. 13)?
  • What does Jesus reveal about God that we wouldn’t know had Jesus not come into the world? What is important about what Jesus shows us about God?

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin), grandfather to Sullivan and Isabella. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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