One of the Bible readings you are bound to hear in church over Christmas begins like this:
“The people who walked in darkness, have seen a great light.
They lived in a land of shadows, but now light is shining on them.”
A few years back we had a lovely family holiday on a site owned by the Forestry Commission. We were staying in a large wood cabin, deep in the forest, almost hidden amongst the trees. Near the reception area there was a laundry room with automatic washers and tumble driers, which we used several times during our stay.
One evening after a late meal, I was dispatched to the laundry room with bulging carrier bags, crammed full with dirty washing. It was still quite light, and I enjoyed my little stroll through the forest, listening to the wildlife and looking up at the trees. But two washer loads later and a long spell in the tumble drier, it had gone very, very dark. There was no moon and I hadn’t thought to bring a torch with me.
You can imagine the kind of journey I had walking back to our wood cabin. Even though I knew the way and had walked it often, that had always been during daylight. Walking through a forest at night was a different story. Moving very slowly, I made my way along the path, touching the fence from time to time, to make sure I was on track.
Eventually, I saw the light outside the door of our cabin, and how bright it seemed in the darkness. At that moment I could very much relate to that passage from the Bible:
“The people who walked in darkness, have seen a great light……..”
The words were written by Isaiah of Jerusalem, who lived some eight centuries before the first Christmas. It was a dark period in the history of his people, Israel. There was much poverty in the land, and great injustice on the part of the rich. The faith of his people had become corrupted by idol worship. There was the constant threat of invasion from neighbouring powers.
In the midst of it all, the prophet held out a vision of light, joy and peace heralded by the birth of a special child. He went on to write: “Unto us a child is born. Unto us a son is given.”
Isaiah’s prophecy was partially fulfilled in the events of that time, and there were further glimmers of light in the centuries which followed. But Isaiah’s vision found its greatest fulfilment in the birth of Jesus, God’s Messiah, the Anointed One. In Jesus, more than any other, we see the Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
There is much darkness in the world today; war and terror, poverty and injustice, fears about the future. Some of us have our personal experiences of darkness; illness, bereavement, loneliness, anxiety and depression.
The message of Christmas is a message of hope. It is a message of hope because the light of Christ penetrates even the deepest darkness. In him every one of us can experience comfort for our sorrows, healing for our hurts, peace for our troubled minds, and a deep sense of joy because we are held safe in God’s boundless love.
May the light of Christ enter your life and mine once again this Christmas, driving away all the darkness. May we feel the radiance of his love, the joy of his presence, and a peace which passes all understanding.
Yours in Christian love,