Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Christmas and Lights (They Go Together)
There are some amazing displays of coloured lights, flashing and still that people decorate their houses with. For their pleasure and the pleasure of others. Over the past few years I’ve taken my children round to have a look at them in the various towns we’ve been in and its helped me recapture something of the wonder of the season with the infectious joy they seem to get from this.
There are the late night-lights of stores that stay open all hours to try and make Christmas shopping easier for us. Maybe they hope that after a certain time our will to resist that extra something for Auntie or the Children will break down.
Sadly there are the flashing lights of emergency vehicles responding to increased tension in some households or roadside carnage.
From the windows of homes there is the flash of Christmas tree lights that form a focus for family and friends. That are like a beacon to young ones filled with eager anticipation. They think they’ve guessed what is in the parcel that makes that wonderful rattle when they sneak in and give it a shake.
The Christmas tree lights often accompanied by the ghostly blue glow of the TV screens and more recently computer screens as people seek entertainment and amusement. The Christmas specials, adverts and maybe just ‘the same old same old’ another day where watching the box and surfing the web help keep the loneliness at bay or stop us from having to reflect to deeply.
Christmas time also is synonymous with candles. We see them on the Christmas cards we receive and send. At church they count us down to Christmas and light the special songs we cherish at this time of year. In fact at a recent Carols by Candlelight service I commented on the irony that the church know at Christmas was one of the only place you can say to people Light ‘em if you’ve got em’. Candles not cigarettes though.
Maybe Candles at Christmas are a chance for us to reflect, both on the light and the dark.
The Christmas story is also full of Light in the midst of darkness.
Mary bears a special child, the light of the world. Conceived and growing in the darkness of the womb. Able to hear the loud sounds about it. To know its mothers voice, the laugh of Joseph when he feels the child kick or the harsh order of roman soldiers in this occupied country demanding that people go to their native town to register.
Like this child we too glimpse as in a mirror darkly the existence of the spiritual all around us. The light that God shines to reveal himself to us; in creation, scripture and ultimately in coming as one of us.
The shepherds are sitting maybe by a fire in the cold hills around Bethlehem, keeping watch over their sheep. Always alert that a wolf or lion or two-legged creature may rob them of the animals from which they make their living. Maybe the banter round the fire would be rather familiar to us
… “ she’s a hard road finding the perfect woman, Boy’… “Lattee didn’t he play hooker for Otago”… “she’d have been faster if we had a horse”… “good on you mate”…
Then there is such blinding light. Like the sky was a curtain it rolls back and an angel appears. It was enough to frighten these harden shepherd they fall on the ground. The angel says fear not and give them Good News of a child born who is the saviour. A child not in a palace or in the home of the rich and powerful but in a shed lay in a feed trough. Suddenly the night was full of light. The angels arrayed as a mighty army spreading across the expanse of the night sky singing ‘Glory to God in the highest, and peace to all on earth in whom God find’s favour”. The shepherds abandon their sheep and go and see that what they have been told is true.
Here is the light of the world being proclaimed by creatures of light. Hope and peace with God for even the lowly shepherds and people like you and I.
We call them wise men, they gazed at the sky and looked to the stars to understand the world around them. They too see a light: Something new in the heavens. Something that causes them to leave their observatory, maybe change out of their white coats and put away their plastic pocket protectors, and go on a long journey. The star they understood signalled the birth of a special child. The long awaited ‘King of the Jews’. They journey through lands and the political intrigue of the paranoid dictator Herod to find this one. Lead and guided by a light. Finding a child who they worship and give and gifts of gold, frankeseince and myrrh. Strange to our twenty first century minds when a packet of treasures or a rattle maybe gifts for a baby. But they were gifts designed for a king.
The light of Christmas caused them to journey from the familiar to look for something new that would bring hope and peace for the human soul.
John’s gospel.does not start by focusing on the shed out the back or the shepherds and angels wise men or kings but invites us to look at a bigger picture maybe like we would if we were standing at the beach at night staring out across the vastness of the pacific or up into the vastness of space. He looks beyond time and space to before the beginning and sees that in the darkness when there was only God That the word was with God and was God. That the word became a light that shone in the darkness. Like a candle it shed light, it showed us what God was like. That God loved us and was near us even in the darkness of our world or in the darkness in our own souls. The light revealed what had always been there beyond the gaze of man or the probe of the most technically advanced instrument. Beyond the physical universe there is a God who is spirit and who loves us. That in Christ this God became one of us, like a New Zealnad Christmas Summer Holiday, God pitched his tent in our neighbourhood and showed us the light of the world.