The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.’ (Isaiah 9.2)
Very soon, set against the black cloth of a winter sky, we will be treated to a kaleidoscope of magical light. Brightness upon flickering brightness. Kind people will ignore their electric meters and decorate their houses, their trees and their gardens for us all to delight in. They will buy illuminated reindeer, penguins, white-bearded men with kind faces. There will be stars and snowmen and sleighs, baubles and bears and bells. For a few short weeks we will strive to drive away the darkness of real life… the deep darkness of an anguished world and an uncertain future. We will try… for a little while.
But when our pagan Christmas is packed away in the lightless loft the darkness will flood in once more, all the more intense because we so loved the shine of celebration and the comfort of its bright presence. If only it could last a year… lifetime… an eternity: that cheer-giving light that overpowers the darkness we so hate! Well, it can. Read the following words carefully: ‘In him was life and that life was the light of all mankind… The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.’ (John 1)
The light that is for all mankind came in the form of a very special life – God placed Jesus deliberately into this world’s darkness, the darkness that taints us all. He lived ‘the true light’, defeated death with the light and invites us to dwell in light eternally. He gave light to illuminate our need and to reveal his provision so that we might stand in God’s holy presence, for ‘God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.’ (1 John 1.5)
A girl washes her clothes in a North Korean river. She accidentally drops her Bible. She pays for this small act of clumsiness with her life…
‘The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it…’
She knew the risks, but she braved the darkness to hold onto the light. In spite of brutal persecution, the church is growing in that land as it is in other places of persecution – for the light of Jesus Christ cannot be extinguished. There are many, many brave men, women and children shining ‘like stars in the night sky as (they) hold firmly to the word of life.’ (Philippians 2.15)
We do not have darkness like that. Ours is much more subtle. Insidious. But real.
Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ (John 8.12) That is actually what makes Christmas worth celebrating. No more deep darkness. Wonderful, isn’t it?