December 21, 2021
"Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures."
The theme of “darkness to light” runs throughout the scriptures, from Genesis 1:3 forward. We’re told in the first two verses of Genesis that God created the heavens and the earth, but the earth was “formless and empty.” But then God said, “’ Let there be light,’ and there was light.” God literally spoke the light into existence and saw “that the light was good.” In the New Testament, John writes “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world,” (John 3:19). That Light, of course, is Jesus – who declared to his followers that he was indeed the “light of the world,” (John 8:12). In today’s passage, James picks up on this theme of “darkness to light” by writing that every good gift and every perfect gift comes down from God, “the Father of the heavenly lights.” These heavenly lights shone in their fullest glory at Jesus’ birth, but darkness - the absence of light - covered the land upon Jesus’ crucifixion and death.
James continues by writing that with God, the “Father of lights,” there is “no variation or shadow due to change.” The contrast between light and darkness in that statement is significant, as is the unchanging nature of light itself. The light from the sun is constant. The sun, in and of itself, does not create shadows or darkness. It’s what comes between the sun and its rays that creates shadows and darkness. Similarly, but much more profoundly, our spiritual lives work the same way: the spiritual transmission of energy from the Father is constant and unchanging. He is the same God. We are the ones who shift and change. The shadows are ours.
But the shadows and the variations don’t prevail, James writes, because we were “brought forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” In bringing us forth, God has “rebirthed” us spiritually with a new nature, a nature embodied in Christ Jesus whose physical birth we celebrate this Advent season. And God has designated us, despite our shifting natures, as the best and finest in the new Creation, this being one of his “generous acts of giving.” Without the physical light flowing from the sun, physical life would not be possible. And without the spiritual light flowing from the Father, eternal life would not be possible either. All creation depends on the gift of physical light the “Father of heavenly lights” spoke into existence, but the gift of Jesus was, and remains, the greatest gift of light of all.
"And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them…"
We praise you for your sovereignty over all creation, and we thank you for your constancy and steadfastness in an ever-changing world. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus during this Advent season, we eagerly anticipate his return. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.