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.
Then there is a blinding light. Like the sky was a curtain it rolls back and an angel appears. It was enough to frighten these hardened outdoors types and they fall on the ground. The angel says fear not and gives 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. The Light of the world proclaimed not to the rich and famous, not A-listers or power brokers, or media or the masses, but to people on the edge. Poor and outcast.
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 calculators and 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 that paranoid dictator Herod to find this one. Lead and guided by a star, to find a child that is the LIght. Finding that child, they worship him 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 all humanity. A light not just for a favoured people, but that would cross all barriers to be a light and bring life for all people.
The video didn’t stop there did it. It could have but it showed that this Child, this light come into the world had a journey to make. AS John said in the word become flesh in Jesus born of Mary, we beheld the light of God’s truth and grace.
A Light that travelled to a hill and preached a sermon on the mount A light that showed God’s invitation to new life with him… Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be satisfied, those who mourn for they will be comforted, those who are meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy, blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God. Blessed are the peace makers, for they will be called the children of God, blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of God. Not a light that demanded our attention, but one to whom all who received him he gave the right to be sons and daughters of the most high.
A light that shone on a new way for us to live and be human… Love one another as I have loved you. A Light that shone even in the darkest of hours nailed to a cross, unjustly condemned, sacrificed on the altar of political expediency, but beyond that paying the price for what we had done wrong. Making it possible for God to Shine his new light into our darkness, and give us new life, bring the light of new creation into our lives.
In the video we watched, at the cross it faded to black, but that is not the end of the story. Just as John said in the passage we had read to us… the light shone in the darkness and the darkness could not overcome it… because the the light of the world was so strong that even death could not overcome it.
John starts his gospel with echoes of the genesis story ‘In the beginning’ the creation story and he ends his gospel with new creation, on the first day in the garden, there is the hope of new creation in Jesus risen from the dead.
My friend Malcolm Gordon sums up the incarnation in a wonderful and succinct way. ““Our Advent hope is that God will send his beloved one out into the darkness after his wayward ones. And that no matter how badly that might seem to go for God and for his beloved one, God will somehow win the salvation of many through it.” So this Christmas may you know the Light of the world, the word become flesh more and more in your lives? May you know the life that comes from that light.