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11.29.09, God’s Burden is Light, John 1:1-18, Sermon Summary

by on December 8, 2009

In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

This is a metaphor, of course: Jesus isn’t proposing we exchange wardrobes of agricultural equipment. He’s talking about his teaching and lifestyle. That’s what a Rabbi’s “yoke” referred to. But Jesus’ burden is light also in a way that God’s burden has always been light: a light shining in our darkness, giving us hope and direction.

One of the most powerful, brief, and beloved testimonies of the meaning of light is the Star Spangled Banner. You all know the first verse, how it explains that, at the coming of dawn, those looking for the flag are able to see it, just as they did the previous evening, before the darkness of night set in. Through that darkness, it was only by the exhaust of rockets and the explosion of bombs that the flag was visible. In such light, there was illumination, hope, and purpose.

Light is just as meaningful and compelling in religious scriptures. The first thing God does, according to the Jewish and Christian Bible (Genesis 1:1-3), is bring light out of darkness. Later, the ancient testimonies declare that God had chosen a particular nation to serve the purpose of bringing light to the world. As a result of that choice, all nations would come into the divine light (Isaiah 60:1-3).

Then in John chapter 1, employing the words of Genesis 1, we learn that this divine light has come into the world in a profoundly spiritual and personal way. God’s light-giving Word became flesh, and made it possible for all people to be children of God.

Let us conclude this message and begin our Advent journey by identifying three ways to keep the illumination, hope, and purpose of God’s light in our lives from fading away.

First, meditate on Psalm 56. The author finds himself surrounded by darkness. “Enemies” oppress him and desire his failure. He expresses confidence in God’s care for him; that God even counts the number of times he turns during sleepless nights, and bottles up his tears. Then the author trusts in God’s Word—the very same Word that becomes flesh—and he experiences God’s deliverance in order that he may walk in the light.

Second, Jesus says that we are the light of the world, and that when we do good to others, reflecting God’s light in dark places, people will recognize God’s presence and give thanks. To keep God’s light shining in our own lives, to maintain our illumination, hope, and purpose, all it takes is to do good for someone else in need.

And finally, we can do what churches have done for centuries: We can light a candle to remember that God is with us through the darkness. As we light a candle, we can reflect silently, sing a song, read scripture, or pray. For God’s banner still waves over us, and the light of grace continues to illuminate, inspire, and direct. Amen.

For Further Reflection

  • Looking back over your life, identify times and events when you were in darkness. How did God lead you in those times? How did God lead you out of them?
  • John says Jesus’ coming makes it possible for you to become a child of God. Do you regard yourself as God’s child? How might this new perspective begin to transform you from your inherited identity to your destined one?
  • In what ways can you shine God’s light into the world? Whom do you know, and what opportunities are available to you, where you can help those in need?

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