Two weeks to go and still question marks hang over our Christmas arrangements. It’s easy for stress and anxiety to creep in. When all our plans remain provisional, our sense of peace can feel fragile. We hope that this week’s article will help to restore a sense of peace and equilibrium, however uncertain our circumstances remain.
It’s an extract from Celebrating Christmas, the stunning hardback gift book in which father and daughter Leo and Amy offer images and words to bring you joy at Christmas: a profound, enduring joy even in the midst of pain, loss, betrayal and disappointment.
Full of vivid memories and family anecdotes, ranging from the glittering lights of Oxford Street to the snowy woods of Minnesota, Celebrating Christmas explores the joys and sorrows of Christmas in a broken world, which is, as the author says, ‘exactly why Jesus came to earth!’
‘Celebrating Christmas explores the joys and sorrows of Christmas in a broken world, which is exactly why Jesus came to earth!’
The light in the darkness
A hush descends as the lights are switched off. The congregation is bubbling with anticipation. A young child says, ‘It’s dark!’ to muted laughter. We watch as the vicar lights the candle held by the person at the end of the row, and they light the candle next to them, and so on. Little glowing circles move down the rows until all the candles are lit and, faces aglow, we marvel at the beauty of light dispelling the darkness.
At the beginning of Advent, our church holds a service with Christingles, a symbol created with oranges and candles in 18th-century Germany to help children understand how Jesus is the light of the world. The flames dotted around the congregation speak of God’s love dwelling in his children through his Spirit and Son, a mystery made possible because Jesus came to earth as a baby.
Light is warming, comforting and heralding, and God as the source of all light is a rich theme in the Bible. Indeed, light is the first thing that God creates in the Genesis account – even before the sun (Genesis 1:3–4). God then reveals himself as a light to his people, such as when he appeared to Moses ‘in flames of fire from within a bush’ (Exodus 3:2) or as a bright cloud or a pillar of fire (see Exodus 13:21–22).
‘God as the source of all light is a rich theme in the Bible’
In the New Testament, Matthew in his gospel says that Jesus fulfils Isaiah’s prophecy that ‘the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned’ (Matthew 4:16). We might feel overcome by the darkness around us – the diseases, betrayals and injustices – but God shines his light on us through Jesus.
Similarly, John starts off his gospel with an affirmation of Jesus being the light of life: ‘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 1:4–5). We live in a world permeated by darkness, but the black clouds and oppressive sense of nothingness will not win out against the light.
As you take a quiet moment amidst the busyness of the season, ponder the glory and power of light – and of Jesus, the light who has come into the world.
Jesus, you bring light and life. As I yield to you, your presence within me burns away that which is not holy. Help me to welcome your clarifying light, that I might be free of any sin that clings. May your light within be a gentle and welcoming beacon, a signal in these dark times of a safe haven. Amen