Christmas Day: Gospel – John 1:1-5.9-14

God’s Light – Our World’s Darkness"

Preached by Fr Philip Heng, SJ at Church of St Ignatius – Singapore
on 25th December 2012

In today’s Gospel of St John, the Child-Jesus, the Saviour of the world is presented to us as “the True Light that enlightens all men . . . He lived among us; we saw His glory . . . full of grace and Truth.”

If Jesus were to be born in a great and grand palace with 50 specialist doctors attending to His birth, hundreds of servants serving His needs and thousands of soldiers protecting His safety because He is the Saviour of the world, . . . I think the world and history would probably find it hard to believe in His Message of Salvation.

Why?  There will be a question of credibility and one of the first common remarks that will arise and spread like wild fire is, “This God will never understand our human problems, pains and suffering in our lives.  This God would have little credibility to teach us how to live a life of humility and how to be instruments of peace, joy and unity to those who are going through much darkness of sin and destruction in this world.  He will just be another king whose concern is more for His own prestige, power and popularity.

However, in great contrast, we all know that God chose to come into our world of sin and darkness in the most unique and mysterious ways that was never expected by the Chosen race of the Israelites.  First, in God’s Providence, He chose Mary, the most simple and perfect of all creatures, pure and sinless, full of grace.  Second, God chose to slip silently into our world in the poverty of a stable as His home, a manger as His throne, and in the piercing cold of the night.  Third, the Good News of Salvation was first announced to the poorest of the poor in Israel; the shepherds who are so marginalised that they don’t even have a legal identity or any human rights.  Fourth, the revelation of the Incarnation to the three wise-men searching for the Messiah, from the East, through the guidance of the stars in the skies, reveal to us that the Good News is for all peoples.


What does God’s ways of coming into our world in poverty, silence and simplicity instead of glitter, glory and grandeur tell us about God and also about us as human beings?  First, God may be telling us that our secular world is too complex and confusing for Him to be born into; it is too loud; everyone is talking at the same time and nobody seems to be listening.  So, in God’s Wisdom He may have said to Himself, “If I were to be born in a great palace in a city, the message of the “Gloria” of My angels would not be heard as the city sounds would be deafening and the stars in the skies not be visible as the city lights would be blinding.

There is a story of an exchange of views between a professor and his students that went something like this (source: internet link):

"Did God create everything that exists?"
A student bravely replied, "Yes, He did!"
God created everything? The professor asked.
"Yes sir", the student replied.
The professor answered, "If God created everything, then God created evil since evil exists . . ..
The student became quiet . . .
The professor was quite pleased with himself and boasted to the students that he had proven once more that the Christian faith was a myth.

Another student raised his hand and said, "Sir, can I ask you a question?
Of course, replied the professor. The student stood up and asked,
"Professor does cold exist?"
What kind of question is this?
Of course it exists.
Have you never been cold?
The students snickered at the young man's question.
The young man replied, "In fact sir, cold does not exist.
According to the laws of physics, what we consider cold, in reality is actually the absence of heat.
Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body. Absolute zero (-460 degrees F) is the total absence of heat; all matter becomes inert and incapable of reaction at that temperature. Cold does not exist.  Thus, we have created this word “cold” to describe how we feel if we have no heat."

The student continued, "Professor, does darkness exist?" The professor responded, "Of course it does."

The student replied, "Once again you are wrong sir, darkness does not exist either. Darkness is in reality the absence of light. Light we can study, but not darkness. In fact, we can use Newton's prism to break white light into colours to study the various wavelengths of each colour. But, you cannot measure darkness. A simple ray of light can break into a world of darkness and illuminate it. How can you know how dark a certain space is?  Darkness can only be measured if there is light in it; only light can be measured. Isn't this correct? Darkness is a term used by man to describe what happens when there is no light present."

Finally the young man asked the professor, "Sir, does evil exist?"
Now uncertain, the professor responded,
"Of course as I have already said . . . do we not see evil every day. It is in the daily examples of man's inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil."

To this the student replied, "Actually, evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold; evil is a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil; evil does not have an existence of its own; like light and heat evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God's love present in his heart. It's like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light."  The professor sat down, embarrassed and lost for words. 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, in simpler terms, this student was pointing out to his professor that “evil” in this world or even evil in our hearts which Jesus and thus our Church call sin, is never created by God. Evil is a description of the absence of God in our hearts and in our world.

When we misuse our freedom, we are simply asserting our self-centred self; when we are arrogant and proud, we are simply showing to others, I, me, myself is more important than you, he or she or anyone else.  In doing so, I am also pushing God into the background of my life and denying His presence and His Love in others whom Jesus has taught us to love . . . Each time when I assert my pride and self-centredness . . . I am pushing God out of my life . . . and without God’s presence and His Love, the darkness in which we are surrounded with is called sin.  Thus, sin is the absence of God who is the fullness of Love.

Today, when we celebrate Christmas, we are celebrating the coming of God into our world of darkness where there is a great absence of Love – God’s Love!  We are celebrating the Emmanuel, the fullness of God’s presence in the person of the Child Jesus with us.

Christmas is celebrating the Joy of God’s Light dispelling the darkness of sin in our lives and in our world.
Christmas is celebrating the Peace of God’s Love filling the emptiness of our hearts.

Christmas is celebrating the Commitment of bringing the Joy of God’s Light and the Peace of God’s Love to everyone, daily and at all times . . . to all peoples.

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.


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