Monday, December 22, 2014

Lighten our Darkness

It is so appropriate that in our part of the world Christmas comes at the darkest time of the year. Displays of light, whether consisting of candles or LED's, abound as we make the most of this dark season to proclaim the coming of 'the light of the world'. But in another sense this reminds me that every year, almost without fail, the most appalling acts of darkness, natural or unnatural disasters, seem to take place at or around Christmas. Even in my own short memory I recall events like the Penlee lifeboat disaster from 1981 in which 8 volunteer life-boatmen gave their lives to rescue the crew of a sinking freighter at Christmas. Then there was the dreadful downing of the Lockerbie PanAm flight right near the special day, and of course, 10 years ago, I was in London for hospital treatment when Diane came back from a Boxing Day carol service to say that thousands were feared dead in a terrifying tsunami. By the time that particular horror had run its course nearly a quarter of a million people had perished - what a Christmas! And then this year we have wept at the savage, inhuman slaughter of the little ones in Pakistan.

A Child in DistressBut then, like it or not, that's how Christmas started out. We love to idealise the stable scene with its kneeling wise men, adoring shepherds and hushed animals all worshiping the baby in the manger, but the reality included much less savoury facts. The young parents in Bethlehem were very soon to be engulfed with the most appalling sorrow as every child under 2 years of age was put to death by evil King Herod. The young Jesus with his Mum and Dad escaped as refugees like thousands of others in Jordan and Syria today, leaving behind them mourning and crying as the prophet Jeremiah described so powerfully, "Rachel crying for her children and not able to be comforted".

Why is there this dark side to Christmas?  Just co-incidence?  Maybe if you subscribe to the co-incidence view of history, but I prefer to recognise that the coming of Jesus was the greatest threat to the powers of darkness that they had ever faced, or would ever face. Just as evil King Herod feared that this baby had come to take away his kingdom and power, so there are forces in our world that tremble at the sound of the songs of Christmas. The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus are the hinges on which the door of human history hangs. As we celebrate his coming this Christmas let's not lose sight of the dark side but rejoice that the light has come! "Joy to the world, the Lord has come.  Let Earth receive her king!" Amen to that!