'Hold onto God's light this Christmas'
“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it,” words from the beginning of the book written by St John about the life and death of Jesus. We are used to the nativity stories of Matthew and Luke but St John starts his gospel not at Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem but in eternity. Plenty of thinkers in the pre-Christian and early Christian period had tried to solve the conundrum of how a good God could create and sustain and bear a world like ours. People still do. St John offers no philosophy but states quite boldly, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”
At Christmas, we proclaim that this light which “gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” In the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the love of God was made real. St John proclaims “we have seen his glory, glory as of the Father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” This Jesus promised to be with us, “even to the end of the age,” and sent His Holy Spirit to make His presence real to any one who asks. Jesus doesn’t answer the problem of why God allows bad things to happen, whether starvation, sorrow, cruelty and pandemics. Jesus shows us what God’s love in action means and calls us to be people who, by His grace and our words and actions, can be part of the answer and not part of the problem.
This is a message we need to hear and hold onto. Our Christmas proclamation is not about tinsel, Santa or mincepies, as much as we love them. Our Christmas message is not about cheering ourselves up at a difficult time. It isn’t about escapism. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” These are the words we need to hold onto this Christmas. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” We live a time of pandemic. We have lost loved ones. We have lost jobs and financial security. We live in a time of political insecurity and we cannot be sure what tomorrow will bring. But we too have seen light shining in the darkness: the light of the NHS, the light of the Carers, the emergency services, the light of those whose work, day by day, ensured our needs were met during lockdown, good neighbours who have looked out for one another. Dark it may be but light still shines.
This Christmas, let us ask for the grace to be light for one another and as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the light of the world, let us ask him to let His Light shine in our words and actions. At Christmas, let us celebrate with tinsel and fairy lights, that Jesus the light of the world still shines in the darkness and is the Light that not even death can quench.
May the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the perseverance of the wise man, the obedience of Joseph and Mary and the peace of the Christ child be yours this Christmas.
+Joanna St Davids