John 1:(1-9), 10-18 (NRSV)
Chapter 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Verse 2He was in the beginning with God. Verse 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being Verse 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
Verse 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. Verse 6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. Verse 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. Verse 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. Verse 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. Verse 10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. Verse 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. Verse 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, Verse 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. Verse 14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.
Verse 15(John testified to him and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'") Verse 16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. Verse 17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Verse 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known.
A favorite tradition throughout my ministry included reading this gospel at the close of Christmas Eve services. As the candle lighting began from my candle and then spread throughout the congregation, the sanctuary lights were gradually dimmed until completely out. At the same time, I read these verses, followed with everyone singing “Silent Night.” I never got tired of it. Sure, there was a warm, cozy, sentimental feeling to it. Sure, there was recognition that the church would not be so full again until Easter. Sure, there were concerns over spilled wax or someone’s hair accidentally catching fire. But what I most remember is seeing the light reflected in the glowing face of each candle bearer among a sea of other faces. It seemed as if all of us were unmasked for those few minutes. No matter how one came dressed, no matter their life story, all that faded in the surrounding darkness. What remained were glowing faces. Faces awash in the light of Christ.
Light of the world, thank you for illuminating our darkness. May our faces and lives reflect you, O Christ. Amen.