By porthkerryandrhoose, Jan 9 2018 10:39AM
My least favourite moment of Christmas is arriving here for this service. I come up early to make sure that the heating is on and everything is ready, and although it's only a little after 10 it's so dark and quiet up here that I feel like I'm the only person in the world. Sometimes it's as if the darkness is closing in on me, but then I find the lights on the path and switch them on, and I get to the church and flick the switches and everything is bright again, everything is better. Many of us feel like that about the dark, and as the dark nights come closing in it's wonderful to see the Christmas lights appearing on the houses, brightening up the winter nights. This year it's been especially wonderful because we have had some lights for our village. Those lights do more than light up a dark place, and give cheer to the commuters coming home from work; they tell a story of a community coming together to make a difference.
Lights are a great symbol for Christmas, because Jesus came from heaven to earth to be our light. The first 5 verses of our gospel reading tell us: " In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it."
Darkness can be frightening. We can't see what's in front of us, the dangers that lie ahead like a patch of mud on the path or someone using the cover of darkness to lie in wait. We can have times of darkness in our lives too - the first Christmas without a loved one, uncertainty over a job or pension, a big change in the family. We might even have a sudden realisation of our own mortality. God knows our darkness and so Jesus came to shine his light into this world, into your life and mine. When the light comes, it changes everything. The obstacles and dangers don't go away, but we can see them clearly. If Jesus is our light, he helps us to see things the way he sees them, and he walks the path with us. We don't have to be afraid of the dark any more, not even the darkness of death, because Jesus' light is eternal: "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it."
Now there are people who will say that this isn't true. There are always those who are nay sayers. Think about the lights in our village. I've seen the comments on Facebook and heard the mutters of people in the streets that the lights aren't big enough or they're not in the right place or whatever it might be, without appreciating the hard work it took to get where we are. There are always some who take a negative position. It's the same with Christmas. There are those who say that Jesus isn't real and we should celebrate Christmas without him. This isn't as new a stance as people might think. v9-11 of our reading said "The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him." Even when Jesus walked the earth there were those who refused to listen to him or believe in him.
Does it matter? Does it matter whether we believe or not? The next verses tell us that it does v12-13 " Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God." This is what Jesus offers. Not just the friend along the way, but full adoption into God's family. What do we have to do to get it? Be good all year, like Santa asks? Is that even possible? A little boy was writing his Christmas letter, but rather than writing to Santa, he decided to cut out the middle man and go straight to Jesus. "Dear Jesus" he wrote "I've been a good boy this year and would appreciate a new bicycle. Your friend Daniel." Now Danny guessed that Jesus knew he hadn't been a good boy so he tore it up and tried again: "Dear Jesus, I've been an OK boy this year and I want a new bicycle. Yours truly, Daniel." Danny knew that this still wasn't true so he tore it up and tried again "Dear Jesus, I've thought about being a good boy so may I have a new bicycle? Daniel" He realised that even this wasn't true so he threw away the letter and ran downstairs to the living room where the Nativity scene was. Reaching into it, he got the figure of Mary and ran back upstairs. He got his pen and began to write again "Jesus, let's face it: I've broken most of the commandments, tore up my sister's doll, and lots more. I'm desperate. I've got your mother Mary. If you ever want to see her again, give me a bike for Christmas. From you know who."
(Richard Leonard 'What are we waiting for? Finding meaning in Advent and Christmas')
Little Danny had got one thing right - he knew he had messed up and had nothing to bargain with Jesus over. Neither have we. To even try is insulting to the loving heart of God. How, then, do we get what Jesus offers, this adoption into his family? We simply receive it. It's a gift. As we trust the giver and believe his promises, we are taken into his family as his precious child. That's why Jesus left the glories of heaven to become a child, so that we can become the children of God. Will you receive him this Christmas?
well, we've reflected on the light of Jesus, and the darkness we often face, and we've also seen that God offers to lift us out of that darkness. I want to finish tonight with the beautiful words of another pastor in his Christmas address:
"There’s a story to be told… the real story tells about a day when our Heavenly Father went looking for a tree. And He chose the best one He could find with just the right shape. And He took that tree and placed it where everyone that passed by could see it. And then He hung the most beautiful Light that Heaven had to offer on that tree. And everyone that passed by gazed in wonder at the Light on the tree. And the story goes… the Light died and the scripture says… once again, darkness covered the land. And then the Father moved His beautiful Light that died into the darkest place possible, a sealed tomb. You can’t get any darker than a sealed tomb. There is absolutely no light and no expectation of light in a sealed tomb. It’s a place of hopelessness. It’s a place of despair and despondency. That’s the way God wanted it. He planned for the Greatest Gift ever given to mankind, the Light of the World, to be positioned in the darkest place that mankind could ever face, death; because . . . three days later… over in the darkness of that tomb, over in the most dire of situations, the most hopeless of circumstances, once again the Light shined in the darkness and the darkness could not stop it. Jesus, the Light of the World opened His eyes up and said… “Grave, where is your victory… Death where is your sting.” And when that Light shined into the darkest of darkness, hope sprang up for every man, woman, boy, and girl in any situation that they might face, because Jesus, the Lamb of God, the Light of the World prevailed against the darkness." (John Petty Sermon Central) May you know the light of Christ this Christmas.