Connections 12.17.2017: The Light of Christ

John 1:1-9, 19-28

At this time of year, we marvel at the beauty of Christmas lights. Our family enjoys getting a special treat and riding through our town, admiring neighborhood light displays while we listen to Christmas music. We love to decorate our own house as well. I feel such peace and joy when I switch on the colorful lights each evening. They shine out as a symbol of hope on a dark night. One of my friends posted a Facebook picture of her Christmas decorations this year: a tiny tabletop tree next to a small wooden reindeer. “This is my idea of decorating for Christmas!” she wrote. But that tree was filled with white lights. I’d bet that, when she switches off her lamp and overhead bulb, the light from her tiny tree reaches the darkest corners of the room.

I’ve experienced another form of light this holiday season. This year, I finally took a chance on something I’ve wanted to do since elementary school: I auditioned for a musical at a local theater and have spent the past two and a half months rehearsing as part of the cast of Annie. For many weeks, we wore plain clothes as we learned the songs, lines, and blocking. Then, we gradually began adding elements like props, costumes, microphones, and an orchestra. The week of opening night, we brought in the final touch: light. I’ve watched in awe as the fantastic lighting director has designed what feels like the perfect sequence of brightness, dimness, reds, blues, whites, cold light and warm light—all to add weight to what is happening in each scene. And of course there is the spotlight that narrows the audience’s gaze to one character while all else goes dark. The effect is particularly meaningful during solos by Annie and Mr. Warbucks.

Light is powerful. And it’s an image that propels the story in the Bible—from God’s first word of “Let there be light” (Gen 1) to the proclamation of Jesus as the “light of the world” (John 8:12). Over and over, the Bible indicates that light isn’t just something we have to see to experience. It’s also something we can feel deep within us. When John says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (1:8), we may visualize a bright spotlight breaking through a creeping darkness. It’s a good image for what John actually means: that the love of Jesus Christ comes into a world of sin, evil, despair, death, and desperation and gives us something to live for.

Because of the light of Christ, we can see God in other people. We can find our way through circumstances that would otherwise destroy us. We can look for hope when there shouldn’t be any. We can know that we are never alone.


1. By this time in December, many homes are decorated for Christmas. What role do lights play in these displays? How important is light in your own home at Christmas?
2. When has physical light been most helpful to you? What would you have done without it?
3. Why do you think John uses the image of light to describe Jesus?
4. What does it mean to you that Jesus is the Light of the world? How has he shone light into your life?
5. In our church’s Christmas Eve service, the night ends with the pastor lighting one candle from the Advent Christ candle. He then passes the light along to others, and they to still others, lighting each other’s candles all around the sanctuary. It’s quite an emotional moment when the room is filled with the glow of those individual lights all coming together. How can we share and spread the light of Christ in our world today?

Reference Shelf

The key to any determination of the story order of 1:1-18 is the history of religions parallels. There is widespread agreement that the background against which the prologue should be read is the Wisdom myth of ancient Judaism (cf. Appendix). A list of specific parallels is instructive.

(1) Preexistence is common to both the Johannine Logos and Jewish Wisdom (John 1:1: “In beginning was the Word” // Proverbs 8:22; “The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old”; Sirach 1:4: “Wisdom was created before all things”; 24:9: “From eternity, in the beginning, he created me”).

(2) Both are said to be “with God” (John 1:1: “and the Word was with God” // Proverbs 8:30: “then I was beside him, like a master workman”; Wisdom of Solomon 9:4: “the wisdom that sits by thy throne”).

(3) Both are said to be divine (John 1:1: “and the Word was God” // Wisdom of Solomon 7:25-26: “For she is a breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; . . . she is a reflection of eternal light, . . . and an image of his goodness”).

(4) Both are described as the instrument of creation (John 1:3: “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” // Prov 8:30: “I was beside him like a master workman”; 3:19: “The LORD by wisdom founded the earth”; Wisdom of Solomon 7:22: “wisdom, the fashioner of all things”; 9:1-2: “who hast made all things by thy word, and by thy wisdom hast formed man”).

(5) Both are called the source of life (John 1:4: “In him was life” // Prov 8:35: “he who finds me finds life”; Baruch 4:1b: “All who hold her fast will live”) and light (John 1:4: “and the life was the light of men” //Wisdom of Solomon 7:26: “she is a reflection of eternal light”; Sirach 24:27: “It makes instruction shine forth like light”; Baruch 4:2: “walk toward the shining of her light”).

(6) Neither can be overcome by darkness/evil (John 1:5: “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it” // Wisdom of Solomon 7:29-30: “Compared with the light she is found to be superior, for it is succeeded by the night, but against wisdom evil does not prevail”). The parallels settle the translation problem of 1:5. In this context katelaben means “overcome,” not “comprehend.”

(7) Both continually come into the world (John 1:9: “The true light which enlightens every person was continually coming [present tense, periphrastic participle] into the world” // Wisdom of Solomon 6:13, 16: “She hastens to make herself known . . . she goes about seeking those worthy of her”; 7:27: “in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God”; Sirach 24:6-7: “in the whole earth, and in every people and nation, I have gotten a possession. Among all these I sought a resting place; I sought in whose territory I might lodge”; 1 Enoch 42:1: “Then Wisdom went out to dwell with the children of the people”) and are in the world (John 1:10: “He was in the world” // Wisdom of Solomon 8:1: “She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other”). The parallels, together with the present tense (continually coming) in 1:9, point to a general revelation to all people. This idea would be compatible with other early Christians from Paul (Rom 1:19-20) to Justin (1 Apology 5).

Charles H. Talbert, Reading John, Reading the New Testament (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 1992) 70-71.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor for Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. She attends church and leads an adult Sunday school class in Macon, Georgia. She is also the office administrator for Jay’s HOPE, a local charity serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her daughters, Samantha (12) and Natalie (10) and her husband John. For fun, she tries to stay caught up on the latest amazing TV series (including Doctor Who, Sherlock, Gilmore Girls, and The Crown).


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