15 December 2017

Celebrating light in the darkness

I’m writing to you at the end of September; you’re reading this in December…but I have a confession to make. I’ve lit a cinnamonscented candle, am listening to Christmas music for a few weeks now, and there is a starshaped Christmas cookie sitting next to me.

As you may have guessed, I am a big fan of Christmas. There is something so wonderfully warm and sparkly about the season. My friends have given up hope of me holding off from celebrating Christmas before the month of December –I simply feel it is too good to limit it to a month.

My candles, music and baking waltz along with presents, special concerts, trees, holidays, roast dinners, shiny wrapping paper, long queues, hot chocolate, carol services (are you getting excited yet?) in what I imagine to be a golden ballroom decorated very seasonally. Yet they are threads in a blindfold we often find ourselves wearing, causing us to become so caught up in the “hustle and bustle” of Christmas, with dangerous consequences.

I wrote in my last article of the plight of our 27 million fellow human beings who know only the bitter taste of slavery and exploitation. Their stories, names and faces haunt my mind in my bid to reconcile the thought that so much darkness can exist in a world made by and intended for Light. That I can sit typing in cinnamon-scented candlelight with a roof over my head when someone of the exact same worth – that is, of infinite worth as a hand-crafted work of the Ultimate Artist –is, tonight, locked in a confined space does not sit well with me. It isn’t right. It isn’t fair. Tomorrow I will go to a workplace that I have chosen, to do work which I enjoy, when others are being made to carry out horrific acts against their will. I am free to make choices, to move, to speak, to love, when others’ freedom has been robbed. This Christmas, when I am warmly wrapped up under a glistening tree with bow-tied boxes of things I don’t need, with family I take for granted, eating food we have too much of, others will be hoping they are spared a beating or are given a cup of water. That doesn’t make sense.

It doesn’t make sense, not only because there is such a contrast between one way of life and another, it doesn’t make sense because there is such contrast between this reality and the way the world was intended to be. God made a world that was “good”, where peace and freedom and friendship and love filled and ran freely, the population of which he made and knew and loved. These creatures turned against their Maker and chose their own paths, which brought destruction and darkness into the world that had been made so perfectly. The new cracks in the broken clay manifested themselves as sickness, death, pain, hardship, poverty, persecution, power struggles, war… darkness, in one word. What is found at the heart of this thickest darkness is sin, but this is where we get excited: the true meaning of Christmas comes in. “The true meaning of Christmas” – sounds so clichéd, doesn’t it? And yet…it is the most exciting and hope-breathing gift we have been given. Darkness is only pierced with light, the true Light who entered our world to save us. This is why we celebrate the coming of our Saviour King. Christmas celebrates the Genesis of the earthly life of the sinless Saviour who became sin to set the captives free.

Oh, such wonderful truth that has saved us from the darkness and brought us into light. And yet, oh, how often we forget about this tremendous gift when we snuggle up under the warm, comfortable blankets of consumerism, ignorance or materialism. We, who live in fairly peaceful areas without much persecution, with more money than others; those of us with roofs over our heads who are free to worship, free to work…we forget. We are blind.

It is important, then, to recognise that there is such a strong current that runs in the hustle and bustle of Christmastime willing its catch to be kept from delighting in the wondrous Light of the world. He is the only one who will bring us peace, joy, hope and love.

And when we allow our eyes to miss Him, we also allow our eyes to miss the need for Him in our world.

The people who suffer in the world are not only those enslaved. The persecuted church daily faces the threat of death and loss; others live in fear of the same things in wartorn lands; others still under the palm of illness. You can add here the darkness you know in your own life or in the lives of those close to you. The darkness cannot overcome the Light, but it is still here.

We should not forget this. In fact, we should, as a global Church, do more to remember these fellow members of the human race to whom God wants us to reach out and bring Celebrating Light in the Darkness

light. Whilst candles, carols and cookies are not in and of themselves bad things, they are not what matters. We who have received the gift of light have a gift to share. Maybe this means that we need to support more organisations who work to bring light into darkness. Maybe we need to get our hands dirty ourselves in this work, going abroad or stepping out our front doors. Maybe we need to give up certain things that we know blind us. Maybe we need to commit to praying more for situations of darkness.

May we never become overwhelmed by the darkness. Our hearts are justly broken for the things that break God’s, but we must cling to the hope that Christmas brings: Jesus became man. He walked in our shoes. He understands our tears in the darkness. And yet, the further promise of Christmas: the battle is not over, but the battle is won. We are redeemed. The Light has prevailed. God incarnate came to save the world and to shine His Light into the darkness. May this magnificent truth shape our celebrations this Christmas.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5, ESV.