It is the winter solstice (so they tell me); the time in the year when the sun is at it’s lowest point in the sky and we experience the shortest day and longest night. (If you know all the technical terms, celestial equator and sphere, excursion etc. please bear with this somewhat simple description!)
The darkness is winning – or so it seems. Our evenings start early and it all feels a bit gloomy and, for those of us who are early risers, we get up whilst it is still dark! Then, gradually, the days will lengthen to the spring (or vernal) equinox and further until the longest day in June.
In our world, does it sometimes feel as though the darkness is winning? This year has seen an escalation of violence and tragedy throughout the world; with atrocities occurring daily in the Middle East, millions displaced across the globe and the horror of migrant deaths never out of the news. Poverty still afflicts millions and is not absent from our own shores, where all too many struggle to survive from day to day and homelessness is on the increase. All around we see evidence of moral and ethical decline, at every level and area of society, including the churches. The daily bombardment of our senses with such things can easily lead to us become depressed and to believe indeed that spiritual darkness is growing and overcoming the light, but in this season, of all seasons we are encouraged to have hope!
Is the darkness now greater than it was when Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem around 2000 years ago? The headlines would have been different, but the impact on the individual lives of the people of Judea was no doubt much the same. The people we are told ‘walked in darkness’; they dwelt in the ‘land of the shadow of death’ and yet, the prophet had proclaimed that light would break into that darkness in the person of a child: ‘Unto us a child is born, to us a son is given’ (Isaiah 9) and Matthew makes it clear to us that Jesus, the baby in the feeding trough, was and is the fulfilment of that ancient promise!
John’s Gospel tells us in the first chapter ‘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’. It’s still true! Despite all the darkness around, a light is shining; the light of Christ. It shines in us, from us, through us and is still available to all mankind. Darkness speaks of the absence of light, rather than of anything substantial, and even the tiniest light can dispel the dark! Let’s rekindle our hope this Christmas and believe again that this Gospel light cannot be extinguished. Receive the light, proclaim the light… and, wherever you can, be the light.
Love and blessings from all at Letton Hall this Christmas!