Just shut your eyes for a moment and cast your mind to a time when you were bursting with something to say and were just waiting for the chance to say it. Maybe something exciting had happened – something momentous even. Or perhaps it was one of those times when you heard things that were being spoken about and you knew it wasn’t correct – you were dying to set the record straight because you knew the truth. Have you got something in your mind? Can you remember how you felt? That feeling that you would just burst if you didn’t tell someone. You just couldn’t keep it to yourself. You just had to get it out. To proclaim it.
I think that was how John was as he started to write his letter – the opening lines of which we have just heard. He could hardly wait to put pen to paper. What news he had! This news was so good and so big, the whole world needed to know. He wanted to shout it out. He repeatedly uses the word ‘proclaim’ – he wanted to get it out there – to tell everyone.
And what was this exciting news? It was Jesus, of course. Jesus was the news which John was just bursting to share. And it was such good news! John makes clear his credentials – this is not some hearsay, some local gossip that he was proclaiming. This was first hand; this was from someone who had spent a lot of time with Jesus; who had personally seen, heard and even touched Jesus himself. You can believe it, says John, because I was there. I know!
And John does have much to say. The thinking is that John was writing in to encourage new believers, the embryonic churches; but also to dispel those who were putting their own misleading interpretation on what following Jesus was about. So John was putting the record straight by re-enforcing what the good news meant. If you read the whole of John’s letter there is a lot for us to think about.
Part of the family
In this letter John tells his readers that he had come to know Jesus so well that it became a family relationship. A family headed by God the Father and Jesus his Son. John uses the word fellowship to emphasise the closeness of the relationship. A relationship which is now available to all those who believe.
There is an invitation here to join the fellowship, the family, for all who believe. “You also may have fellowship with us, says John, our fellowship is with the Father and his Son.” You can have direct relationship with God the Father. Not a second-hand relationship passed on through temple rituals; not a distant relationship with a far off God but one that is here and now, in us and through us. Because in Jesus we are made a part of his family. A bit like when at school you made a good friend and that led to you knowing his parents; and before long they welcomed you in as part of the family because they showed love and kindness to you. You felt at ease in their company. That’s how it is when you get to know Jesus. Knowing him leads to knowing his Father. Being at ease in their company.
Walk in the light
John’s letter goes on to talk about how the family relationship is characterised. I’m only going to comment on one aspect now – because it was part of our reading – walking in the light.
Just now it’s Christmas which is a celebration of Jesus, the light of the world, coming into our human existence. The scriptures, the Old Testament, often tell us that God is light – Psalm 27: “The Lord is my light and my salvation” – and John says here “This is the message we have heard, God is light”. He reminds his readers that in this new relationship with God we must walk – that is live our lives – in his light. By being in God’s family we will carry that light within us. We will glow with the Holy Spirit. And John makes it clear – if you claim to be in the family and carry the light then you can’t be half-hearted – you can’t be in the light and in the dark.
So, don’t get complacent, don’t kid yourselves, don’t think you can just go through the motions. Being in the light means openness – no hiding away – no pretending – no underhandedness – always be truthful both to God and to yourself. If you have shortcomings –and let’s face it, we all do – then be upfront with God and through Jesus’ sacrifice you will be forgiven.
Much much more
There is so much in this letter of John’s. So much we could ponder about and learn from. Enough to fill us to bursting! Can I suggest that we all give ourselves a New Year resolution to read John’s gospel and letters.
For now let’s think about how we can best follow John’s example and start some proclaiming. It struck me during our Communion service on Christmas Day that we regularly say in the words of that service “we proclaim your great and glorious name” and “we proclaim the mystery of faith”. So, do we do that just in church or should we actually be doing that proclaiming outside of these church walls? Maybe we need to get our thinking caps on and see how we can get proclaiming. Maybe we should be bursting to proclaim our relationship with Jesus and tell others of the family of which we are a part – a part of the church family; a part of God’s family.
And let us show that we don’t just claim to walk in the light but that we do it. Let’s purposefully step out of the shadows and let us continue to celebrate Christmas with a renewed conviction that Jesus is the light for the world; the light that will chase away the darkness. Jesus, Immanuel, God with us. Let’s step into 2021 with that assurance of light and life in his name. Amen.