The Light of Christmas
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5)
Some years ago, over an Australian Summer, I travelled to Lyon in France with a group CGGS students. They were studying French, and they were going to spend a European winter absorbing French culture and language, as well as food! We arrived just as the people of Lyon were celebrating a most lovely festival, the “Fete des Lumieres” (Festival of Lights). The origins of this Festival go back to the eighth of December 1852, when a golden statue of Mary was placed on the bell tower of La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière, a church that stands high on a hill overlooking Lyon. On that first dark mid-Winter night the people of Lyon were encouraged to light candles in their windows. Today it’s not just candles in windows! The city centre is an explosion of light and colour: every street, every square, every façade lit up. I remember the delight of moving through the city streets with our students, as well as thousands of others, finding light & creativity around each and every corner.
Here in our Southern hemisphere summer, when there is no shortage of light from the blazing sun, the symbolism of light shining in the darkness is just as important! Some of us string up lights on our Christmas tree, or in our trees or windows; some of us gather for “Carols by Candlelight”, or in Churches lit up by candles at midnight. And then there are the family walks around the suburban streets of those who have “gone to town” on front-yard decorations!
At the heart of the Christmas story is the wonder of divine light: the light that shines from the heart of God. All babies bring with them a kind of light, don’t they? All babies bring promise and possibility, and I think many of us are reminded of this at Christmas, as we listen to the story of birth. But at Christmas it is the Christ-child who comes to us, the baby Jesus who asks for our attention. And the light of the Christ-child is the light from which every other kind of light we can know has its source. It is the light of God’s love, God’s mercy, God’s joy, the “true light”.
It doesn’t take much for the light of a candle to be blown out. Power outages can trip up our attempts to bring joy to our neighbours by our Christmas displays. And covid meant that, last year in Lyon, the Festival of Lights was cancelled. So too, cruel and selfish actions can snuff out the light, for a time, that is to be found at the centre of every human being. But the Christian faith is that nothing, absolutely nothing, can overcome the light that the baby Jesus brings into the world. And that’s why Christmas is such a time of joy. We all have known places of darkness, whether in the world, our homes or in our hearts. And sometimes that darkness seems to be winning. Jesus is our promise that God’s light, “the true light, which enlightens everyone” (John 1: 9) cannot be put out by any kind of darkness. And so we can, if we wish, live with hope in our hearts, no matter what happens around us.
May the lights that fill our homes, our streets, and our neighbourhoods this Christmas-time become signs for us of God’s most true and beautiful light. As we find delight in our battery-powered lights, may we also be touched by the light of God’s eternal love for us, and be aware of the light that shines, by God’s grace, from deep within us. And, at the end of a year that required much of us, and perhaps took much from us, may these lights make us glad!
My prayers this Christmas-eve are especially with those who will be missing loved ones this Christmas.
Every blessing to all in our school community,