Light and Darkness
Does anyone here not like the dark?
When my kids were young, they liked to sleep with a nightlight.
Why is it we don’t like the dark?
And what about other types of darkness? The darkness we see in our world, for example – when we watch the news –
Have you seen anything on the news that has made you sad?
It sometimes feels like only bad news is worth sharing…we see nations at war, we see nations divided, and life can feel very dark.
And what about the darkness within ourselves? The parts of ourselves that we don’t like, that we are ashamed of, that we often try and suppress. I’m asking you to be honest here but what are the parts of you that you don’t like or that you’d like to change?
Have you ever noticed that the Christmas story is centered on darkness. From the barrenness of Elizabeth, to the unmarried virgin. From the dark night in Bethlehem to the lack of shelter for the birth. From the shepherds, typically dangerous men excluded from society, to Herod’s fear and selfish cruelty as he oversees a regime of oppression and exploitation for the Roman empire. The whole story begins in darkness and fear.
We’ve had a tendency to sugarcoat this within the church. We gloss over the many years Elizabeth endured without a child and the social exclusion that Mary would have suffered once her pregnancy was known about. We make the nativity scenes look clean, beautiful, and even warm. We convey the shepherds as loving kind people and we don’t really mention Herod until well after Christmas. We focus on the joy of Christmas, but in doing so, we can forget where things started. They started in darkness and fear.
Does anyone know why we celebrate Christmas in December? It’s exactly because this is when our world is the darkest (in the Northern hemisphere at least!).
This is when we can most visually grasp the power of light shining in the darkness – as we put lights on the Christmas tree, light candles – it wouldn’t really work in summer would it?
Likewise, Jesus is born at night - if Jesus had been born in the day, would anyone have been able to see the star? [Example with child]
Sometimes, we need the darkness to be able to see the light more clearly – this is where it shines the brightest.
Alexander Shaia said... “The only place the light can be born is in the depths of darkness…. this is where it begins – in the dark places, the low places, the places inside of ourselves where we feel unclean.”
There is something about the Christmas lights in the darkness of December – they are a little bit magical aren’t they? And they help share the heart of the Christmas message, that it is in the deepest dark that we find the light. This is where it is birthed and begins to shine.
We mainly live in a culture that tries to avoid the darkness, we turn on fluorescent lights, we pretend everything is fine, that the darkness is not there …..and so we miss the point, we miss the opportunity to experience God’s light and love.
The Christmas narrative helps us understand that everyone of us carries a darkness of some kind…. and we should not fear it – because that will be the place where the light begins. As John tells us:
Jesus, light of the world, is born.. and the light shines in the darkness…
Light, love, joy – these are things that we don’t always understand, we can’t always explain - and yet we see the way they are able to transform us, transform life.
And this is what Christmas is about – we celebrate Christmas because we understand that we all need to enter into our darkness, not run away from it, to find light. We all need joy some of the time, and no matter where we are in life, we all need love.
The story of Jesus is the story of God sending the very source of light and love into the darkness of our world. It is a story that tells us, no matter how dark things may seem, we are not alone, have never been alone and will never be alone.
Each Christmas story we are invited to go on a journey, just as Jesus did – a journey through the darkness, into the unknown, following the call of his heavenly father, of our heavenly father – a journey to bring light and love, not just into our own lives, but beyond them, and out into the whole world.
I wish you all a very Happy Christmas.