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The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it

December 23, 2013

John 1.1-5 (NRSV): In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

“The light shines in the darkness”. When I first moved to Norfolk, it was to a little place between Downham Market and Swaffham. We arrived at our new house in the late afternoon ready to camp in our bedroom until the removals men caught up with us the next day. That evening we decided to walk off over the fields and little roads to the nearest pub to eat and get to know people. We had a great time and nearly bought a horse – but that’s another story entirely!

Then with the glow of good cheer we set off back again. Do you realise, its dark at night, I mean really dark?! It sounds obvious but when you’ve spent your time in towns it comes as a bit of a shock. Even little rural market towns have lots of street lights, but not deepest, darkest Norfolk. We hadn’t brought a torch but full of good cheer and blind confidence we set off in the direction we believed our new house to be.

We set off down little lanes, with vague outlines of hedges. I suddenly appreciated the illumination of the stars and a tiny bit of the moon. Somehow we found the entrance to the path across the fields. By some miracle we didn’t end up in a ditch. Even more amazingly we ended up back at the house and not some lonely copse of trees half way to nowhere.

“The light shines in the darkness”: what I would have given for a torch that night. A torch, a torch, my parish for a torch! I think of that walk in the dark and I think “When you have to walk in the dark, you learn the value of light”.

With that in mind I turned to the news headlines:

1. Shelling kills four Iraq army officers, and two soldiers
2. Syrian helicopter bomb raids kill 42 in Aleppo
3. Storm ‘Everywhere By Lunchtime’
4. Rolls-Royce says Serious Fraud Office to investigate bribery allegations
5. British Airways Plane ‘Crash’ In Johannesburg
6. South Korean union vows all-out strike in sympathy with rail workers
7. At least 15 killed as Brazil bus drives off highway
8. African troops fire on Central Africa protesters, one dead
9. Rolf Harris faces three more sex charges

There is darkness in our world. There is darkness in this country too. We know it but tonight, even with the dark all around I defy it. I celebrate Christmas. I celebrate the birth of new life; Life that brings light into our darkness. So whatever my darkness, whatever sadness or shame threatens the light in me, I remember those words from John’s Gospel, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

The light will always win out over the darkness. That is the message. That is a promise from the one who created the universe and everything in it. All I have to do is hold on to that hope and claim it for myself: “to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1.12-13)

All I had to do was to claim that promise, to believe in Jesus and God made me his child. I did that, I claimed that promise, I am God’s child and it’s like getting that torch in the darkness. The dark and the sad are still there. Life for me is not all roses. But there is light in the darkness, and hope too. Because of that first Christmas I can be God’s child and see the world as it really is: A world full of life, purpose and meaning. A world full of spirit.

God became a human being and lived on earth, and that happened so that the light could shine more brightly. That happened so that me, and all who receive him can have that light within us. Jesus was born in our world and because of that light can shine in our world. The real world. Light can shine in our families, in our schools in our town, in our country, there is even hope for our world.

Because Jesus was born there is hope and light for me and hope for everything that I love and cherish. That is why I celebrate Christmas. I celebrate because I know, I am sure, that light has come into the world. I don’t want to stumble and fall into a ditch in the darkness of the world, I don’t want that for me or for anyone.

I celebrate Christmas to claim that promise that, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” I celebrate so that I can be a light in the darkness too.

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