Advent Day 8 – A Light in the Darkness
John 1:1-18
Carolyn A.
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 3All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it.
6There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. 9The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.
10He was in the world, and the world was created through him, and yet the world did not recognize him. 11He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name, 13who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.
14The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15(John testified concerning him and exclaimed, “This was the one of whom I said, ‘The one coming after me ranks ahead of me, because he existed before me.’”) 16Indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from his fullness, 17for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side  — he has revealed him.

The apostle John contextualizes his account of the words and deeds of his good friend Jesus with an opening prologue that crackles with energy and wonder. Jesus, John wants to tell us, is the very Word of God. He was with God at the creation of the world. He is God. He is life itself, and that life is the light of the world.

Then comes verse 5: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” At least that’s what it says in my 2011 edition of the NIV. But here’s a striking thing: My older edition of the NIV (the 1984 translation) reads differently. It says, “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”

The Greek word alternatively rendered “overcome” and “understood” is katalambanó—which means to “take hold of” or “grasp.” We need more than one English word to try to hint at the full gist of what John is saying here.

John has seen the Light of the World with his own eyes. He’s gone fishing with him. He’s eaten with him. He’s prayed with him. And he’s watched him endure the most horrific death imaginable and then come back to life. So John knows that there is no darkness in the universe that can permanently grasp and defeat this light. The darkness cannot overcome it.

But John also knows that our human minds, left to their own devices, cannot begin to grasp the love on offer in the astonishing fact of the Incarnation. The darkness cannot understand it.

John’s prologue culminates with a breathtaking meditation on the lengths to which God has gone to reach us with his illuminating love. “The Word became flesh,” he writes, “and made his dwelling among us.” Or, as The Message paraphrase renders it, the flesh-and-blood Word “moved into the neighborhood.”

The Mighty God came in the staggeringly vulnerable form of a human baby. The Prince of Peace allowed himself to be birthed into a world of sin and chaos—God made huggable, woundable, kissable, killable.

Only the Light of the World can give us the power to begin to understand what God has offered us in the birth of Jesus. So, this Advent, let us pray the prayer the apostle Paul offered the Ephesians (3:18): that we, “being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”


Drawing by Katherine, 3rd grade.