The light shines in the darkness

 

“On every world, wherever people are, in the deepest part of the winter, at the exact mid-point, everybody stops and turns and hugs, as if to say, well done. Well done, everyone. We’re halfway out of the dark.”  (Kazran Sardick, Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol)

Light is a significant theme running through Christmas celebrations, whether in the form of electric lights on the tree, candles on the windowsill, or the star shown on the cards we send.  For those of us living in the dank and dark of a northern hemisphere winter, this represents a boost to our flagging midwinter morale, but the theme of midwinter light wasn’t invented by cold and wet Europeans.  It precedes us by millennia.

The highlight of many Christmas services is the first 14 verses of John’s gospel, including the key incarnation verse:

The true light that gives light to everyone came into the world.

(John 1:9)

This is the mystery of the incarnation: that God who is light himself (1 John 1:5), who created light in the first place (Genesis 1:3), and who will be forever the only source of light in the new Jerusalem (Revelation 22:5), came into the world he created, to bring us the eternal light of his presence.  We no longer need to pray the ancient collect “Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord” for he has already done it!  We people who walked in darkness have seen a great light! (Isaiah 9:2)

And he continues to do it, even in the darkness of this present age.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it (John 1:5).  Bringing his light into our lives, Jesus enables us to shine like stars (Philippians 2:15).  He makes us the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), as we blogged about nine Christmases ago.

At this time of year, we often send cards and greetings to one another, praying for the light to come into each other’s lives or commending the light to them.  Perhaps a more appropriate prayer would be that we would shine the light so brightly that those living in darkness will be attracted to it.

May the light of Jesus be in you, and shine out of you, this Christmas!

The price of peace

Source: www.bbc.co.uk

Source: www.bbc.co.uk

At this time of year there is a lot of talk about peace.  It’s almost as if we’re thinking of a blanket amnesty like the football played in the trenches of the First World War in 1914.  We may not have resolved all our problems, but for a day at least we can put them aside in a spirit of goodwill to everyone.

Yet the world will continue to have plenty of places where peace will not prevail this Christmas.  Conflict in central Africa and the middle east will not cease.  Oppression of Christians in Islamic or communist states will continue with a vengeance.  And of course even in Christian households and churches there will be strife and discord.

We’ve not previously quoted Doctor Who in this blog before, but one thing the twelfth doctor says is apposite for this occasion:

The only way anyone can live in peace is if they’re prepared to forgive.*

This is the motivation behind God’s incarnation.  Creating an opportunity for reconciliation, God chose to forgive so that humanity can live at peace with God.  But it’s not merely for us to enjoy, to indulge ourselves in, or to congratulate ourselves for.  It might be a free gift but it’s not a cheap one – it cost Jesus everything to create it, and it costs us every time we choose to forgive someone.  It means letting go of our right to justice, to hatred, to revenge.  Just as God let go of his rights and forgave us.

The gift that keeps on giving needs to be passed on.  In fact, it gets better if it’s passed on, which is why Jesus taught us to pray “Forgives us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”  So give generously this Christmas, and give the gift of peace to those who don’t yet have it.

* The Zygon Inversion, new series 9, episode 8