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Dec 17, 2023

Darkness vs. Light

Passage: John 1:4-10

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Advent 2023--The Contrasts of Christmas

Keywords: evil, righteousness, life, darkness, death, light, presence of god, judgment of god


The contrasts of darkness and light permeate the Old and New Testaments. The Advent of Christ pierced the darkness with the coming of Light itself. This message looks at three ways in which Jesus personifies significant aspects of spiritual light.


The Darkness & Light of the Advent

Advent 2023—Contrasts of Christmas

December 17, 2023


  • Contrasts of Christmas:
    • Silence & Speaking of God
    • Hope and Despair
    • Darkness & Light

Contrasts are what make life…

  • Beautiful (beginning and end of day are best times for outdoor photos because of shadows and contrast; both color and black & white)
  • Colorful (color vs. monochrome)
  • Rhythmic (night vs. day)
  • Emotional (birth vs. death)
  • Varied (work and rest)

When it comes to darkness & light, we use those terms to contrast everything from the physical universe to the moral, emotional, mental and relational components of life.  Virtually every culture in the world has used those distinctions in similar ways.  It’s another evidence, I think, of what our forefathers referred to as “natural law”—something written on the hearts and minds of all of us.  God uses something built into the physical universe to evidence something built into the moral universe. 

            You all know that I’m not a physicist.  But I can’t help being amazed even as a layman with the properties of light and darkness.  Even the Bible begins with that physical reality of light and darkness.  Four times in Genesis 1, God draws attention to darkness as opposed to light:

  1. Genesis 1:2—The earth was formless and void, and darknesswas over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters….
  2. Genesis 1:4—God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness….
  3. Genesis 1:5—God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning….
  4. Genesis 1:17-18—"God placed them [sun/moon—“greater lights”] in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness.”

Light…and darkness…continue to amaze, surprise and confound even scientists and certainly simple people like me.  Consider….

  • Light has generally been viewed as the fastest thing in the universe, traveling at 186,000 miles per second (or 671 million miles per hour—would get you somewhere between Jupiter [at 500 million miles from earth] and Saturn [741 million miles from earth].) That is in a vacuum, i.e. with no other physical forces to impede its travel.

You can slow light down.  In 1999, researchers at Harvard University were able to slow a beam of light down to 38 miles an hour (61 kilometers per hour) by passing it through a state of matter known as a Bose-Einstein condensate. That's almost 18 million times slower than normal!

  • The most ancient (and, in some ways accurate) description of light has been as a ray or beam. Light acts like a ray, which is how we describe how it acts in reflection (changing direction as it bounces off surfaces—paper, rocks, scissors. “The angle of incidence equals the angel of reflection.”  Why you can see yourself in a mirror but not paper.  But you can read writing on a paper at many different angels.) and refraction (changing the direction as it passes from one transparent medium [air] to another transparent medium [water]  The amount of bending depends on how much material slows the light). Thanks to refraction, many of us can see better with glasses/contacts.
  • Light also acts like That was discovered in the 19th century and determined to be because light has electromagnetic properties or radiation—it has both electric and magnetic fields.  (Why we see mirages from heat waves.)  Light waves come in a continuous variety of sizes, frequencies and energies, a continuum known as the electromagnetic spectrum.  (See slide.)
  • The 20th century saw the discovery of light as particles: thus the quantum theory of light (that light exists as packets or particles, called photons).  In this modern view, scientists define light as a collection of one or more photons (particle) propagating through space (ray) as electromagnetic waves (wave).
  • Less than 1% of all light (the spectrum) is visible to the human eye. The other 99+% is still light.  Our eyes are just not designed to see it.  In other words, we’re ALL 99% blind…and many are on the way to 100% at some point in life. 

Is your mind starting to race with spiritual parallels yet?  God has built in truths that point to Him at every intersection of life with knowledge.  We choose to either embrace Him in our knowledge or become more spiritually blind.

Romans 1:20-23

20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God….

            Speaking of darkness, it too has properties.  That is why scientists today talk about “dark matter” and “dark energy”.  The amazing thing is that scientists hypothesize today that the vast majority of the physical universe which we can detect or “see” because of light and how it interacts with objects in our universe cannot be “seen”.  The only way it seems to interact with our universe is in the realm of gravity or gravitation.  In what is called the “standard Lambda-CDM model of cosmology”, the mass–energy content of the universe is 5% ordinary matter (that we can observe by how it interacts with light). Dark matter constitutes 85% of the total mass, while dark energy and dark matter constitute 95% of the total mass–energy content of the universe.  In other words, 95% of the mass-energy content in our universe, we have little to no idea what it even is let alone how it acts or works. 

            Doesn’t this give God’s words in Genesis 1:4 about God “separating the light from the darkness” another level of wonder?

            That’s enough science for today.  Hopefully enough to cause you to see that light and darkness have and always will be big deals in our universe. 

            But let’s jump back into the ‘other universe’ of light and dark—the non-physical, the spiritual “contrast” that God wanted us to recognize between light and dark in the Advent story.  God clearly placed himself in the person of Jesus into the physical issues of light and darkness in the nativity—things like stars that appear and angels that are brilliant white with the glory of God OR nighttime when Jesus is born into the darkness in which shepherds are guarding and protecting their sheep near Bethlehem.  But those physical encounters with light and darkness are just faint road signs pointing to the more eternal and important contrasts of spiritual light and darkness in this story. 

            John’s Gospel begins with this contrast of the spiritual light and darkness to which our Lord came.  He writes in chapter 1,

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.

There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.

            Clearly, John is focusing on the spiritual issues of light and darkness.  The connection between light and God, righteousness and life was something every Jew would have understood.  It grew out of clear O.T. metaphors and teachings about God.

            God’s relationship to light and darkness was almost taken for granted.  Think for a moment about light.


  1. Light was associated with, even often synonymous with, LIFE while darkness was associated with
    1. Job 17:13--“If I look for Sheol as my home, I make my bed in the darkness.”
    2. Psalm 56:13-- For You have delivered my soul from death, Indeed my feet from stumbling, So that I may walk before God In the light of the living.
    3. Job 38:17-- “Have the gates of death been revealed to you, Or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?

The N.T. picks this up and places life squarely with the person of Jesus:

  • John 1:4—In Him was life and the life was the Light of men.
  • John 8:12-- Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Lightof the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”
  • Zechariah’s prophecy in Luke 1 contains this imagery when he prophecies both about what his son John the Baptist will do and what Jesus will do.

Luke 1:76ff—For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways;
77 To give to His people the knowledge of salvation
By the forgiveness of their sins,
78 Because of the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Sunrise [the Messiah] from on high will visit us,
79 To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”

APP:  The great offer of God to people has always been life.  The great lie of Satan to people has always been that life is found somewhere besides God. 

  • What I often tell people at funerals: the original lie of Satan was that sin would not bring death.  100% human mortality rate for thousands of years has debunked that lie.  The new lie:  you will not live forever; this is all there is. 

We must remember that when we encounter the darkness of death, God is speaking to us about His truthfulness and about real life:  “The wage that sin pays is death, BUT the gift that God gives is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

            If you are looking for life, Jesus Christ has it and is offering it to anyone who will simply put their faith and hope in Him.  Stop running after things that only bring emptiness, disappointment and death.  Jesus Christ, the light of the world, calls you to choose Him, the Author and Sustainer of all true and lasting life. 

[Call to accept Christ and embrace eternal life in doing so.]

Back to the O.T.

  1. Light was associated with GOOD/RIGHTEOUSNESS while darkness was associated with
    1. Proverbs 4:18-19—“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day.
      19 The way of the wicked is like darkness;
      They do not know over what they stumble.”
    2. Isaiah 5:20-- Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness….
    3. Check out Isaiah 58:6-10 for a more extensive treatment of what God considers righteous living that brings light as opposed to wicked living that brings darkness.

[Isaiah 58-- “Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
“Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
“Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will speedily spring forth;
And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
“Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you remove the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,
10 And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.]

The N.T. picks this up clearly with multiple references to sinful living being “deeds of darkness” while walking with and in Christ is walking “in the light.” 

  1. Romans 13:12--The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darknessand put on the armor of light.
  2. Ephesians 5:7-9-- Therefore do not be partakers with them;for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 

The editors of the NASV here have capitalized the word “Light” because they believe Paul is referring, not to just moral or spiritual light but to Jesus Christ himself as the Light.  That is utterly consistent with what John said of Jesus in the Gospel of John and what Jesus said of himself there.  There is not a hint of spiritual or moral darkness in Him.  If we want good instead of evil in this life, we want the life, fruit and walk of Jesus Christ to be ours.

ILL:  Placing of an altar/statue in worship of Satan in the Iowa State Capitol next to a Nativity and Menorah.  This is darkness next to light, evil next to good.  It doesn’t matter what they say they stand for.  Anyone with half a brain and a willingness to do minimal research will find that worship of Satan is always connected with sexual immorality, death, abuse, incest, and every possible form of evil.  Can anyone here point to one hospital, one good charity, one wholesome university or school that is founded, run, and managed by followers of Satan?  This is nothing but calling evil good in the darkness of a culture that has abandoned all rational belief in objective absolutes.  It incumbent upon us, the people of God, to call evil evil and good good.  Evil does not lead to life, but death.  Darkness does not draw people to light.  It destroys them.  Not all religions are created equal.  Satanism is a religion that has always been and always will be aligned with godlessness, evil, darkness and death.  And we need to remind our culture of that in very clear terms. 

ILL:  Personal friends who dedicated their lives to counseling survivors of Satanic ritual abuse.  It is a horror of the most gruesome kind.  Don’t believe what these people say.  They are worshiping the Father of Lies who, when he and they speak, speaks his native tongue—lying.  To believe otherwise is to willfully choose darkness.

So, we have LIFE vs. DEATH and GOOD vs. EVIL (and various components of each) identified in the biblical mindset with light and darkness. 

  1. God’s PRESENCE in blessing (light) vs. God’s ABSENCE (usually in judgment) is darkness.

Darkness/absence of God:

  1. Zephaniah 1—Speaking of “the day of the Lord,” he says, “15 A day of wrath is that day, A day of trouble and distress, A day of destruction and desolation, A day of darkness and gloom, A day of clouds and thick darkness,”
  2. Isaiah 47:5--“Sit silently, and go into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans, For you will no longer be called The queen of kingdoms.”
  3. To those who looked to mediums and soothsayers instead of God and His word, Isaiah prophesied judgment in Isaiah 8: 21 They will pass through the land hard-pressed and famished, and it will turn out that when they are hungry, they will be enraged and curse their king and their God as they face upward.22 Then they will look to the earth, and behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and they will be driven away into darkness.

Light/Presence of God:

  1. Psalm 44:3—“… their own arm did not save them,
    But Your right hand and Your arm and the light of Your presence….”
  2. Psalm 18:28-- For You light my lamp;
    The Lord my God illumines my darkness.
  3. 2 Samuel 22:29--“For You are my lamp, O Lord; And the Lordillumines my darkness.
  4. Micah 7:8-- Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy.
    Though I fall I will rise; Though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me.

Micah points out a very important truth about times when we feel very much like we’re “living in darkness.”  It’s a truth that reverberates through all of scripture but which the O.T. people of God particularly learned to grasp in their times of discipline or confusion or captivity. 

God is IN the darkness. 

He is like the physically unseen and almost undetectable “dark matter/energy” we are observing in the physical universe.  While we may only perceive less than 1% of what is actually all around us or going on in the unseen realm of life, God, who IS light, is also IN the darkness with us.  And it’s not dark to Him!

  1. Psalm 139:11-12-- If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,” 12 Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.
  2. Daniel 2:22--“It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him.

What are we to do when we, as people who know that God is with us…who know we have accepted the Lord God, Jesus Christ, yet we feel like life is completely dark?

  1. Amos 5-- “Seek Me that you may live.
    “But do not resort to Bethel
    And do not come to Gilgal,
    Nor cross over to Beheba;
    For Gilgal will certainly go into captivity
    And Bethel will come to trouble.
    “Seek the Lord that you may live….

8 He who made the Pleiades and Orion
And changes deep darkness into morning,
Who also darkens day into night,
Who calls for the waters of the sea
And pours them out on the surface of the earth,
The Lord is His name.

  1. The entire book of Job—Keep crying out to God in the darkness!
  2. John 8:12-- Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”
  3. 2 Corinthians 4:6--For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

APP:  This is why we seek the presence of God even as our nation is in the midst of judgment.  His presence brings light.  His presence makes darkness flee.  His presence is what we need the most as the darkness continues to press in.  We can handle anything, as long as we know that Jesus Christ, who has conquered darkness, is right here with us.  This is what has sustained the martyrs of every century and what sustains our brothers and sisters under intense persecution today.  God chooses to be present with those who fight against the darkness.  But we fight best when we press into the presence of Christ rather than rail against the darkness.

            Look no where else.  Look to Christ to dispel your darkness.

            What is the darkness you are IN today?  God is there with you, even when you don’t feel Him.  Our darkness is not dark to Him.  Our inability to see what He sees does not mean He is blind.  It means we, as the blind person, need to hold more tightly to the One who sees us and sees everything. 

            Let me end with a few things God’s Word says we must do if we long for the light of Christ to dominate us and the darkness of this world to flee:

Things that produce greater light in us:

  1. Choose righteous actions/people and flee unrighteous actions/people. Deeds and armor of light/deeds of darkness
    1. Romans 13:12--The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darknessand put on the armor of light.
    2. Ephesians 5:7-11--Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; 
  2. Guard the alliances we make, holy or unholy. 2 Cor. 6:14--  Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 
  3. Fight the spiritual battle you are in; don’t surrendering to it. Ephesians 6:12-- For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
  4. Talk about the greatness of God with others: 1 Peter 2:9--But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
  5. Be in meaningful, genuine, deep fellowship with others who are walking with Christ. 1 John 1: This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 

That fellowship involves actually loving people:  1 John 2:  The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. 10 The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him.