In all religions, Christianity in general and in carol services in particular, we make a great deal of the use of light, both literally and metaphorically. We began our service by lighting candles and the words of the bidding prayers reminded us of those who dwell now in a greater light. Isaiah chapter 9 tells us of a people who walked in darkness who have seen a great light and so on and so on. Indeed the advertising for this service included and amazing depiction of the nativity by the fifteenth-century artist Geerten tot Sint Jans, in which the light source for the scene, illuminating the faces of all in the stable, is depicted as the Christ child himself – Jesus is radiant with light, piercing the darkness of the night, echoing our readings this evening and the writing of the fourteenth-century St. Brigid of Sweden who wrote that, in her visions, the light of the new-born child was so bright that the sun was not comparable to it.
But as we gather this evening, are we here merely because we like carols and candles, or merely to celebrate the miracle of child birth in general in a kind of festival of light? Or, as we anticipate the birth of Jesus, is there something more? What is this image of light about and is our world really so dark that we need it at all? I believe we do.
The Austrian psychologist Carl Jung once wrote about a life without God: He wrote that “The vast neurotic misery of the world could be termed a neurosis of emptiness.
People cut themselves off from the root of their being, from God and then life turns empty, inane, meaningless, without purpose.
So when God goes, goal goes.
When goal goes, meaning goes.
When meaning goes, value goes, and life turns dead on our hands.”
Thus, the darkness we inhabit is, of course, the darkness of our own turning away from goodness and love, that is God, and choosing paths that are harmful to ourselves and others. We know this in ourselves and we see it daily in our world, in our newspapers.
Our darkness is also the grave, which remains a final door from which there is no returning, but Christ has indeed been raised from the dead the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
Jesus sheds a powerful light on the our fear of the blackness of sin and death.
And for us there is no longer any reason to fear. His light has broken down the door of death and has freed us from its terrors.
But His light means more than just victory over the darkness of the grave. It also means Jesus will light up the very life we live now. Jesus explained to His disciples:
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:11
God has stepped into a world that was a dark and empty place. He came down in human form and allowed Himself to be put to death for our sins. “Immanuel”–God with us.
I was sitting in a lecture the other day in Schools and on the white board was projected the university crest with the motto ‘Dominus Illuminatio Mea’ The Lord is my Light. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus this Christmas, may this be a reality for each one of us. Amen.
27th November 2011