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Darkness is scary. It’s one of the most common fears of children, and adults too, even though we might not want to admit it. It’s scary because the darkness hides things. You can’t see in the dark, and that means the darkness is unknown. What’s unknown is scary. Going a new way in the daylight is fine, but at night it’s a different story.
Darkness is also scary for another reason. Darkness is not a thing by itself. It is the absence of light. Darkness represents nothingness. Outer space is dark. It’s fascinating, but it’s also unnerving. Trying to think about the sheer nothingness in the void between stars is terrifying.
But that idea of nothingness is the closest we can come to picturing what it was like at the beginning of all things. In the beginning, darkness. In the beginning, nothing.
But in the beginning, God.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
For in the beginning, God made. He made with His voice. With His Word. For in the beginning, God spoke. He said “Let there be” and there was. He spoke into the lonely darkness. The primordial void. He spoke into the nothingness “Let there be light!” And there was. Suddenly, the world was no longer formless and void. There was no longer a veil of darkness over all things. Things went from unknown to known, because now there was light.
And the darkness could not overcome it.
Or, another translation:
the darkness could not comprehend it.
Darkness does not know the light. When you wake up before dawn and switch on your kitchen light, you move from darkness into light; and, at least for a few seconds, you do not comprehend the light. Neither does darkness understand the light. It cannot overcome it and it cannot defeat it; because it cannot understand it.
And so, God defeated the darkness. He drove it away by His Word, speaking the foundations of the world into existence. He crafted the world, bringing forth life, birds of the air and fish of the sea. He brought the continents out of the depths, seeding them with plants and animals. Where once there stood a cold and empty void, there is now color and light and life.
Above it all, God set Adam. God formed Him out of the ground with His hands, breathing His own breath into him. God gave Adam life. Adam walked in the garden in the light, seeing and marveling at the wonder of God’s creation. As Scripture says, it was very good.
Then, tragedy struck. A fallen angel took the form of a serpent. The serpent twisted the words of God and Adam and Eve fell into sin. Adam hid from God. A good hiding place is not in the light. It’s in the darkness. The light reveals. The darkness hides. All mankind has been hiding from God ever since. Every human being is conceived and born sinful.
Mankind has fallen into darkness. He tries to make his own way, but he fails. He stumbles, unable to see the ground in front of him. Mankind has made himself formless and void. Just like in the beginning, there is darkness.
But just like in the beginning, there is God. There is the Word. Humanity dwells in darkness, but there, barely visible on the horizon, light breaks on a dark world. Rays of shining light shine through the mists. The birds of the air and the fish of the sea rejoice. Plants and animals and color and life all come together in a joyous symphony. For,
[T]he Word became flesh and dwelt among us
The Word opens His mouth. He speaks with the cry of an infant. The Word becomes flesh. Light at long last is brought into the world. Holy infant, so tender and mild. The Lord of all snuggles with His mother. The voice that spoke creation into existence cries for food and comfort. God Most High. Infant most lowly. Wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. The sun shines through the stable. A perfect little halo surrounds his tiny face. The light has come.
The little baby Jesus reveals God to a world that has forgotten Him. God meets His people face to face. And that face is the face of an infant. Mary is the first to see the face of God. She nestles her Creator in her arms and rocks Him to sleep. She feeds the little baby Jesus. With the tender care of a mother, she cleans Him. Mary changes God. All the little mundane acts of parenthood. Cleaning spit up. Waking at every hour of the night to feed and comfort the little One. Watching God’s tiny face as His eyes close and He drifts off to sleep. God the Son slumbers peacefully in His mother’s arms.
Up until now, all people have been born under sin, born under the law of Moses. But now, this little baby has been born without sin. He has been born under the law, but not under the sin of Adam. For Adam is not the baby’s father. God is. His birth was holy. This Son of God was born of woman. He has the birthright. He is the firstborn – of all creation. Jesus was there before the first moments where God spoke “Let there be.” He alone is the Son of God.
But now, that Son of God is a Son of a woman. God is man. The Word became flesh. Now you too, can share in that birth. Jesus gives His birthright to you in baptism. When you are washed in that font in the Name of the Lord, you become a child of God.
To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
The second birth of baptism is not won by your blood, sweat and tears. It certainly isn’t won by the desire of your flesh. It isn’t won by the desire of your father either. It’s given by God. God gives you the gift of adoption into an eternal family. by the water and the Word.
In baptism, God wraps His fatherly arms around you in a loving embrace. God watches you with tender loving care when you lay down to sleep. He guards you and protects you from all evil. He feeds you, providing you with all you need for this body and life. God is your heavenly Father. Jesus is your elder brother. You are welcomed into the family of God.
And like any good family, we feast. At least, we will. There will be a wonderful feast in heaven. Food and drink as far as the eye can see. Friends, neighbors, loved ones will all gather together like it’s Christmas dinner. There, us younger siblings will be able to finally meet our Lord, for Jesus, the Word, the Light of the world, will be there. It will be a day of laughter and joy. And that day will never end. It will never descend into darkness, for the Light of the World will stand before us. Jesus, both God and man, united in one.
One day, we will join in that feast with all the faithful. The marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which shall have no end. But until then, we have a foretaste of that feast. For the Word became flesh and blood and He gives that flesh and blood to you on this altar. Like baptism, God unites something physical with His Word. Here, bread and wine are united with the Word. With the Word, they become the Word’s flesh and blood.
Here, Jesus gives you the salvation He won. Here, Jesus gives you His body and His blood to eat and to drink. Here, Jesus unites Himself to you. As you eat His body and drink His blood, Christ dwells within you. He gives you Himself to nourish and strengthen you. Here, He gives you a foretaste of the feast to come.
The babe of Bethlehem would grow. Jesus grows in wisdom and in stature. At first, He learns to crawl. He starts to babble, learning to talk from His mom and stepdad. Soon, He learns to walk, then to run. Jesus the infant becomes Jesus the boy. But the boy grew up and became a man. At thirty years old, He walked through Jerusalem’s streets, preaching and teaching and healing. Eventually, His road would take Him to the cross, where He would give Himself for the sins of the world. He would rise victorious three days later.
But that’s for later. Right now, consider God as a baby. His soft cheeks. His joyful laugh. His tiny, unscarred hands. Mary, rocking her Son. The creator of all things finally goes to sleep. Softly, Mary lies down in her bed. Staring at an infant in a manger. Little Jesus. Word become flesh. With her eyes fixed on the infant face of God, Mary drifts off to sleep, the peace of God in her heart.