This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. (1 St. John i. 5)
On Christmas Eve we read about the birth of God’s eternal Word, Jesus Christ, whom St. John the Evangelist called the Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. (St. John i. 9) St. John is the Apostle of Light. Yet this Light shines as the Life and the Love of God out of Jesus and into John’s own heart, so that he calls himself the disciple whom the Lord loved. St. John the Evangelist then is illuminated by Christ the Light and what he sees is nothing other than the Life of God the Father as Love in God the Son.
Yet St. John is often criticized for being the most mystical, other-worldly, and transcendental of the Apostles. The argument goes that if the other Gospel writers were overemphasizing Jesus’ humanity, then John was surely determined to redress the balance with a heavy dose of Christ’s divinity. But the differentiation is over simplified. John indeed does emphasize the mystically Divine nature of Christ. But he goes on to tell us that the Divine Word, That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.) (1 St. John i. 1,2)So a more accurate picture of St. John reveals the Apostle who truly grasps and embraces Christ’s Light as Love precisely because it has been communicated to him through Christ’s humanity. St. Augustine asks: Who could touch the Word of God with his hands, were it not that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us? (Comm. 1 St. John i.) St. John maintains that the only way back to the Word of God is through human nature of Jesus. St. Augustine then tells us that the Word was made flesh in order to be touched by human hands. (Idem) And He intended to be touched by human hands since the human spirit is too far removed from God’s Word by reason of the Fall. Sinful man is incapable of perceiving and sensing God’s Word without its manifestation in human flesh. ‘The Word was made Flesh’ so that a reality only perceptible to the heart might also be visible to our eyes, and thus heal our hearts. For God’s Word is seen only by the heart, but the flesh is seen also with the eyes of the body. We have that with which to see the flesh, but do not have that by which to see God’s Word. And so through His flesh Christ reveals to us that He is God’s Word. (Idem) The Word was made flesh in order for man to perceive, see, understand, and embrace once again God’s Word and Will in human life. St. John tells us that eternal life, which was with the Father, was manifested to us in time and space in Jesus Christ.
So St. John and his fellow Apostles were eyewitnesses of the Word made Flesh, the Incarnation, as the Life, Light, and Love of God for man. St. John writes, that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 St. John i. 3) John and the Apostles have seen and heard ‘the Word made flesh.’ Now he declares or speaks the truth of the Word that we who cannot see might nevertheless hear and believe. Our fellowship with the Apostles is based upon hearing the Good News of ‘the Word made Flesh’ and believing. John saw, heard, embraced, and followed the Word of God made flesh in the historical Jesus. But he, like all others, would soon be called to surrender and release the human Jesus to the place of His heavenly origin. Jesus would ascend to the Father and then demand to be seen, heard, touched, handled, and embraced in John’s heart and soul. The Word [that] was made Flesh would now insist that His ultimate intention is to be made flesh truly in the hearts and souls of as many men as would hear and believe, who would be born not of blood, nor of the will of the felsh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (St. John i. 13) To have Jesus Christ truly is to have Him as God’s Word, and to have Him as God’s Word is to inwardly submit, acquiesce, and obey Him as God’s eternal Will and Desire made flesh.
Of course St. John doesn’t expect us to jump immediately into a state where we are holding, embracing, touching, and having God’s Word inwardly and spiritually. He knows that we must be prepared for a long journey out of earthen vessels and into heavenly temples. So he provides us with a detailed history of how God’s Light, Light, and Love were manifested in the earthly Incarnation of Christ. Then he goes on to show us how we too can begin to allow the Word of God to be made flesh in our hearts and souls. His message is clear. That the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us is God’s revelation of how His Life, Light, and Love save us in Jesus Christ. This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all. (Ibid, 5) In the heart of Jesus John has seen how God’s Light has triumphed over all darkness. Now he speaks the truth of this Word made flesh to us that we might hear and have fellowship with God. Yet he reminds us that, If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the Light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (Ibid, 6,7) To walk in the Light of God is to participate in Jesus Christ’s victory over all darkness and evil. To walk in the Light of God is to be touched and handled by the bright beams of His truth that engender only godly fellowship and goodwill. To walk in the Light of God is to be cleansed from all sin by the blood of God’s own Lamb. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his Word is not in us. (Ibid 8,9)
St. Augustine tells us that, If “God be light, and in Him is no darkness at all, and we must have fellowship with Him,” then from us also must the darkness be driven away, that there may be Light created in us, for darkness cannot have fellowship with Light. (Idem) To become the friends of Christ the Light we must embrace His desire to be lovingly touched and handled in our souls as the Word of Life. In Christmas tide our hearts and souls are invited to cradle and clutch Him as the Infant Babe of Bethlehem. So let us, with St. John, carefully, cautiously, and lovingly hold and handle Him, and in so doing be touched, moved, and transformed by the new birth that His Life, Light, and Love offer to us. May His Light truly make His Birth –that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, an occasion for our own new birth on this Feast of St. John in Christmas tide. Amen.