E100 The Living Word

Sermon Date: 
9 Dec 2012
Bible Base: 
Hebrews 1: 1-4, John 1: 1-18

David Jeans

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Well at long last we have arrived at the New Testament. And most of us are probably breathing a sigh of relief! Partly because the Old Testament is less familiar to us. But also because the Old Testament seems a much more violent world and can get pretty gloomy. It seems a much darker world than the New Testament.
When we first travelled back from New Zealand to visit family, one of the first things you notice is how gloomy Europe is. It’s a combination of air pollution, vapour trails from the skies busy with airplanes, and the sun being lower in the sky. But travelling the other way, you notice how bright the light is. The New Zealand Highway Code advises you what to do in the event of sunstrike – that’s when you turn a corner and find the sun shining in your eyes. Because it is so bright you have to get off the road as soon as you can safely do so.
When you live all the time in New Zealand you get used to the brightness of the light. When you live all the time in England you don’t notice how gloomy it is – unless of course you suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) – getting depressed in November because you are not getting enough light.
Perhaps some of us get a spiritual version of SAD when we read the Old Testament. It’s so gloomy that we want to see some light. Well, there are some things I want to say about that. The first is that this week we come into the bright light. The light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot put it out. The light that lights every human being has come into the world. Jesus the light of the world!
The second is that the gloom of the Old Testament helps us to appreciate the brightness that has come into the world in the form of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Old Testament has shown us the gloom of life without Jesus. It has shown us the violence and deceit that human beings are capable of. Perhaps it makes us appreciate that we live in a much better world than the world of the Old Testament – and much of that is due to the impact of Jesus Christ and his followers on the world we live in. The Old Testament itself demonstrates a desperate longing for hope, for the world to be a better place, for people to be changed. And from time to time there are in the story of the Old Testament great shafts of light, great moments of hope.
I remember a former Bishop of Bradford speaking about the Christian life being like walking eastwards along a dark road at night. Every now and then you come across a street light that reminds you that there is such a thing as light. And because you are walking eastwards you are walking towards the dawn, you are walking towards a time when the world will be full of brightness and there is no more darkness.
Reading the Old Testament is a bit like that journey. Yes, there are lots of dark stretches, but every now and then there is a streetlight of hope; and the journey will end with the rising of the Sun – and we know there are 2 meanings of rising and 2 spellings of ‘sun’ in that!
Let me remind you of some of the streetlights on our journey through the Old Testament. The journey began with the creation and with God’s good and hopeful purposes for creation. Harmonious relationships between God and people, between people and people, and between people and creation. When it went disastrously wrong because of human disobedience there were still some shafts of light, some promises of hope.
·         The promise in the Garden that the tempter would be defeated by the offspring of Adam and Eve.
·         The sign of the rainbow that God’s final word would be grace and mercy, and not judgment.
·         The promise to bless the whole world through the descendants of Abraham.
·         The promise of a land of rest and peace flowing with milk and honey.
·         The deliverance of God’s people from slavery through Moses, and from the war and violence of their neighbours through the Judges who brought deliverance and peace.
·         The promise of a King in the line of David who would be a just King, a servant King who would reign for ever and be the Prince of Peace.
·         The promise of a new covenant in which God would live in people by his Spirit so that all would know him, their sins would be forgiven, and they would have their hearts and lives changed from within.
·         The promise of an end to their exile from God and the promise of returning home.
The Old Testament is full of these streetlights, these shafts of light, these promises of hope and of a better future. But the Old Testament is walking towards the dawn – a dawn of which the shafts of lights are trailers. The Old Testament as part of the written Word of God is pointing away from itself to the Living Word of God, to the Light of the World that the darkness cannot overcome, to God’s final word which is mercy and grace rather than judgment, to the One who shows us what God is really like.
The letter to the Hebrews – Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to us by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son ...He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.
John’s Gospel – the true light was coming into the world. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son of the father, full of grace and truth. No one has ever seen God; the only God who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not and cannot overcome it.
In Jesus the dawn has come; in Jesus we see the true light of the world; in Jesus we see what God is really like. In Jesus all those flashes of light in the Old Testament are fulfilled.
·         Jesus defeats the power of the tempter on the cross.
·         Jesus restores the possibility of harmonious relationships between us and God as he wipes away the sin that separates us from God. Jesus restores the possibility of harmonious relationships between us and each other as we stand together as forgiven people at the foot of the cross.
·         The sign of the rainbow that God’s final word would be grace and not judgment is seen in the Word made flesh who is full of grace and truth. Jesus showed grace and truth in the rest of John’s Gospel. In his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well; in his forgiveness of the woman caught in the act of adultery; in his healing of a blind man.
·         Jesus fulfils the promise of blessing the whole world through the family of Abraham by dying for the whole world and by sending out his people to take the Gospel to the whole world.
·         Jesus delivers us from slavery to sin and brings us peace with God and with each other.
·         Jesus is the Son of David, the Servant king who will reign for ever.
·         Jesus has sealed the new covenant through his death, bringing us forgiveness of sins, personal knowledge of God, and the power of the Spirit within us to make us more like him and to live the life that God calls us to live.
·         And Jesus calls us home as prodigal sons and daughters – when we were still far off you met us in your Son and brought us home.
So this week we enter the light! And because we have been in the gloom we can see just how amazingly bright the light is – the light that shines in the darkness and the darkness can never overcome it.
But what about the people who live in darkness around us? We are those who used to dwell in darkness but we have seen a great light, the light of Jesus himself – but what about them? How will they see the light that we have seen?
Well, there is only one way that that will happen. They do not read or understand the written Word of God. But they can see the living Word of God. They can see it if the Word of God is made flesh in us. They can see it if we are full of grace and truth. They can see it if we reflect the light of Christ into the world. They can see it if our final word to people is words of grace and mercy rather than words of criticism and judgment.
We need to be the streetlights of hope in other people’s journey through the darkness; we need to be for them the pointers to the true light who wants to come into their world; we need to be the living word made flesh showing them Jesus by how we live as those full of grace and truth.
In the words of that great final prayer that we often pray
May we who share Christ’s body live his risen life; we who drink his cup bring life to others; we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world.
May God keep us firm in the hope he has set before us, and may he make us streetlights and beacons of hope to those we meet, so we and all his children shall be free, and the whole earth live to praise His Name.