It is normal for our houses to be lit up at Christmas, normal terraces, cul-de-sacs and estates are transformed, you do not have to walk far from the doors of our church to see reindeer in the garden, Santa on the roof large inflatable light up snowmen and lights galore. Rope lights around the door way, strings of light in trees and bushes and with LED technology it is neither expensive or as dangerous as it once was.
Back in 1880 Thomas Edison was responsible for the first ever public electric Christmas light display, while it was just a simple string of fairy lights by todays standards Edison’s display was described by the Manhattan press as “a fairy land of lights.” Two years later he decorated the first Christmas tree with 80 blinking red, white, and blue electric lights. The tree then spun every 10 seconds, according to a reporter from the Detroit Post and Tribune “the scintillating evergreen was a pretty sight—one can hardly imagine anything prettier … it was a superb exhibition.”
Our streets that are normally dark and quiet at night are lit up with a light that brings so much joy and excitement. It gets me thinking that perhaps that is exactly what we need, perhaps light in the darkness is something we are all searching for. We live in a world where people are bombed out of their own cities and forced to flee from their homes. We live in a world where those we love are taken from us by cruel disease regardless of age. We live in a world full of poverty debt and fear, perhaps a bit of light in that darkness is exactly what we need.
This Christmas we should go to the source of that light, a light that will last beyond next weekend, a light that will shine for all eternity. Where does that light begin? As always light begins in darkness , at Christmas the darkness of a stable in Bethlehem, which seems a very strange place to find a light that will shine for all eternity.
2000 years ago there was plenty of darkness, life was tough. An oppressive Roman Regime made everyone return to their place of birth for the census. Mary with-child travelled through extremes of temperature across hard and unwelcoming terrain. She finally found a smelly animal shed to spend the night in – an old feeding trough in which to lay her precious newborn baby. Jesus was born in abject poverty that first Christmas; not a silent night, not a night when you could say of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie. Our little lord Jesus, made much crying I am fairly sure, his newborn skin comforted not by a mattress or cushion but with the rough straw of the animal feed.
It did not get any better, a despotic King then spent 2 years trying to hunt Jesus down, murdering every baby boy in the hope that Jesus would not get away. Mary, Joseph and Jesus fled, ran as refuges to Egypt, homeless, destitute. In the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John we see this pattern continued, Jesus owned nothing, he had nowhere to lay his head, he relied on others to meet all of his needs, his friends betrayed him, he was put to death on a cross. But he rose again three days later, the Grave empty.
So at Christmas where does the light come from? The light that will shine for all eternity?
We find it in the darkness, the very place where we find vulnerability and fear we find God. Where we find darkness and despair there is God, becuase God has been there before us. In John’s gospel we read “What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.” That is a message of hope, a message of profound hope, especially if you are that pushed out, forgotten or lonely person this Christmas Day.
This Christmas take a look at the lights and see in them the light of life, the light of the world, the light of Christ.
Have a wonderful Christmas – but dare to take glimpse through the lights for there you will find hope shining brightly in the darkness.
David, The Vicar of Silksworth