On a dark night, when we can’t see our way, there are few things more welcome than a light! And candles (or wood fires) in our homes bring a sense of warmth and welcome – there’s a reason that “hygge” is so popular!
Darkness is both literal and metaphorical. The promise that God gives us is of the light of His presence. All we have to do is ask. The famous picture of The Light of the World by Holman Hunt really resonates for me at this time of year, when the nights are long and light fades so quickly.
The prophet Isaiah says (Isa 9.2):
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
And then there are the wonderful words of the prologue in St John’s gospel (Jn.1.1-5):
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was with God in the beginning.Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1.1-14 is the bible passage chosen by Bishop Steven for us all in this diocese to reflect on during 2023. It’s one of my absolute favourites. Especially the phrase “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” The King James Bible renders it “the light shineth in the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not.”
It’s absolutely true – darkness recedes the moment that light shines. And the old-fashioned word “comprehend” has so many layers of meaning. Not only is darkness unable to overcome light, it does not understand it either. Darkness has only utter non-comprehension and defeat when faced with the Light. And that brings such hope! As Aragorn says in the Lord of the Rings, “dawn is ever the hope of men.”
When faced with Light, darkness flees, and all that was covered in darkness is revealed. Things that appeared shadowy and frightening are seen for what they truly are, and can be dealt with. The enemy (whatever form it may take for us) can be seen, and cannot so easily ambush us. Fear is either banished, or at the very least put in its proper place and perspective. Light is the blessing without which there is no life. Light brings hope, and peace, and knowledge, and truth.
Jesus is the Light of the whole world, the whole universe in fact! And He is also the Light within each one of us who has invited Him in. He came in vulnerability as a baby, born in Bethlehem, two millennia ago. He comes and knocks at the door of our hearts, asking to be allowed in. And one day, He will come with such light and power and glory that all darkness in the world will be put to flight.
Until that day, it is for each of us to nurture the light within us, to pray and listen to God so that that light grows every stronger. And to share that light with those around us – for that is the wonderful thing about light: the more we share it, the greater it grows.
May you know the light and love of Christ this Christmas, and may you keep that light burning brightly throughout the coming year, as you walk each day with God.
And may you all have a peaceful and joyful Christmas, and a blessed New Year.