The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The birth stories of Jesus can come off a bit dry. There’s a plainness to the story, a narrative simplicity that can be quite charming…or quite boring. They are not flowery stories. The virgin birth is announced matter-of-factly. No one locally significant makes a big deal about it, it’s just business as usual for everyone. There’s not much fanfare – unless you count stars exploding to announce their king! However, that’s creation – its got its head on straight. We don’t.
The simplicity of the stories makes it easy to ignore all the conflict Jesus creates as a baby. It’s been “Hallmark” carded out of the nativity. But there is this conflict: light has come into the darkness, and the darkness has not “overcome” it. The way John literally says it is like this: the darkness has not ambushed, grasped, seized, or comprehended the light. It’s a word of forceful action when used about your mind or your hands. The picture conjured up here is of a living darkness – imagine a dark shadow hand – trying to pick up or grab a bright light bulb. It doesn’t work, does it? Every time it comes close, the shadow hand simply disappears. It’s a vivid image of powerlessness, even as it describes conflict because there’s no question as to who wins. It’s a conflict, but there’s no contest.
Advent tells us we’re going to have a bit of trouble in this life if we know Jesus. The darkness didn’t like Him, and it doesn’t care much for us either. We are reborn in His light, and the darkness wants to destroy that. I am so often confused and discouraged by life, and then surprised by the difficulty. But it makes sense! Advent focuses us again on the panoramic battle that’s raging across all of history. Some forces don’t want this Jesus, this advent, or any of this brightness in the world. Those same forces are at work today, in your life. This is the perspective that protects us and prepares us for what life throws at us.