“ Light and Sound: A Candle in the Darkness- The Silence is Shattered” John 1:1-4, 11-14, 18; Hebrews 1:1,2
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe
“The Light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1.
A candle is a silent, yet powerful thing- for us symbolizes the light of Christ coming into our darkness. Last week a wind storm came through and hundreds of people in our area were without electricity at night, and turned to candles. Light is silent and emits no sound energy, but it is a different kind and more powerful energy shattering the darkness. When a candle is lit in the darkness all eyes in the darkness go to it. In contrast to the idea of the dark spot on a white board, the candle or light in the darkness is the opposite idea- and is even more powerful. Evil is illustrated by the black dot on a white board. Evil is parasitic- it is the taking away of the good. The black dot is parasitic – and would be meaningless without the white board. So evil would not be nearly as strong without the truth of goodness as a background. For example- if we did not know that children bring joy, hope, and love- that they are more innocent and trusting and caring than we hardened, scarred adults- then the shooting in Connecticut would not be so tragic. Twenty children died- that is the tragic black dot that gets and deserves our attention. Millions live and we want every child to live- that is the white board. At the community memorial service in Newtown twenty six candles were lit for the six adults and twenty children that died. The candle again is a symbol of eternal life. Even though their life was stopped on this side, the Christian hope is that these young children live on. I believe with all my heart that eternal life is more powerful than the evil of death. I believe with all my heart that the resurrection is more powerful than the evil side of the crucifixion. The black dots on the white board are not as meaningful as the candle in the darkness.
When Christ came he is described as a light shining in the darkness- and the darkness has not overcome it. Darkness, no matter how powerful and how quantitative, cannot overcome light. So the one light of Jesus Christ is not snuffed out. Despite thousands of years of skeptics, millions of acts of persecution, millions of martyrs snuffed out in this life- the light still shines- and there are more who believe in Christ today than ever before. The light of Christ- the hope of Christ- the truth of Christ is like an energy source that cannot be put out. It is a fire that burns in our souls that cannot be quenched despite mental, physical, and spiritual attacks. The very fact that this light has not gone out despite heresy and distortions, divisions and brokenness in the church, the loud voices of secular and naiively educated people yelling at believers to not believe, and despite all the great dark sin and dark heartache in the world- the light does not go out- but shines ever brighter. All this does not destroy the light, but in fact, makes the very existence of the truth and light of Christ that much more real. Christ is the light, the truth, the energy that cannot be extinguished. The darkness does not overcome it.
When I was a child they came up with these trick birthday candles that you could not blow out. For years they were the gag gift at birthday parties. Kids would blow the candle out- and the candle would re-light itself. When you blow out a birthday candle, there is still a little ember left that is not hot enough by itself to make the paraffin wax light. Trick candles usually use magnesium dust which is much more flammable than wax and like kindling to hard wood- re-lights the candle. Jesus is the candle in the darkness that cannot go out. Tonight we will blow out our symbolic candles, but the light lives on in each one of us who believe- it cannot be blown out. Christ is the light of the world- our eternal light. We reflect that light in the words we say, the deeds we do, the generosity we have.
The coming of Christ at Christmas is described as light coming into the world: light energy, light force. The coming of Christ into the world is also described as sound energy- the Word. The passage in Hebrews is brief but to the point. “In the past God spoke to us by the prophets, in these days God speaks to us by His Son.” It is a different kind of energy. The Word of God through the prophets was heard and confirmed. But the most common prophecy was that God loves us and that one day God would come visibly to help His people and then the Word would spread even to the Gentiles. There are over 300 messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. So it makes sense that today God speaks to us by His Son. But it is a different kind of Word.
Jesus spoke many wonderful words- words that confirm that He indeed, was the messiah. He spoke words of grace and words of love. He spoke of the need to repent and turn away from sin, but also that if we do so the heavenly Father welcomes the prodigal home. He spoke of the need to help the stranger like the Good Samaritan. He spoke against those who saw themselves as good but who did not really care for others or for God. All these words testify to Christ and inspire us. But the greatest Word is not found in anything Jesus said as much as simply in His being- His presence. Jesus is the Word incarnate- the Word made flesh. Jesus is the love of God where we can see it. The love of God with skin on.
The old story is of a little boy who is scared of the dark and he calls for his mommy. His mommy comes into his room and tries to comfort him and says, “Now you don’t need to be afraid, God is here with you.” The boy replied, “I know mommy, but I want someone here that I can see- with skin on.” Jesus is God with skin on. He walked this earth, breathed our air, felt human pain, seen by human witnesses. But the Word made flesh is more than that.
One skeptic who did not want to believe was always finding fault with the way a Christian said things or did things. He finally said, “Your deeds speak louder than your words.” That is a point. Deeds speak louder than words. God is not ignorant of that- so He came to not just tell us He loves us, but to show us. He told us He loved us with the prophets- “I have loved you with an everlasting love” God said through the prophets. Yet we don’t believe. Show us God- we cried. So God did.
Christ came- leaving His throne for a manger’ Leaving his power to be born as a powerless child; leaving the mansion in the sky to be homeless here on earth- with no room to even be born in; Leaving the security and life of heaven for the insecurity and death of earth; Leaving the praise of heaven for the mocking and scorn of those who would crucify Him; leaving a comfortable heaven for a painful earth; He did this to be a Word- a visible-skin-on Word for you and for me.
In the past God spoke to us by prophets- great words- but just words and human example. In our day- we live after Jesus came- we know and have witnesses that God came to earth out of love for us.
There are a lot of songs that speak about the silent word coming. How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given. Silent night, holy night. It is an ironic thing that some of the greatest sounds cannot be heard by human ear.
We know that human hearing starts about 20 hertz and stops about 20 Killohertz. So we do not hear a dog whistle that is about 20 Kiloherz, but the dog can. But we also cannot hear really low noises. In 1990 there was a book by a scientist (Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell) called, “Silent Thunder” that studied how elephants communicate by very low noises (starting at 10-14hz) and seismic vibrations that travel for miles. An elephant can make a low noise that can be heard by its potential mate or herd 20 miles away. It is amazing stuff. When the 2004 Tsunami hit parts of Thailand, the elephants ran for higher ground and were saved, and most scientists think they heard the wave before we saw it. There is much more to life than we can hear, and much more to life than we can see.
Jesus is the Word that is experienced not by the ear or by the eye- though certainly he was body was seen and his cries were heard 2000 years ago. But Jesus is the Word we experience by faith. He has come, and He still comes. His presence means more than words can say. But to experience Christ you must open your ears up with the hearing aid of faith.