‘The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.’ This is St John’s description of the birth of Jesus which is read in churches on Christmas morning. He also speaks of the nativity as ‘the light that shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it’. Jesus is the light of the world, not some artificial light but the true light which can never be overcome by darkness. He comes into the world for us to bring hope to our lives.
They must have been dark days for Mary and Joseph. They lived under an occupying power and then Caesar Augustus decreed that there should be a census and everyone, irrespective of their situation or personal difficulties, had to go to their own town to be registered. So, Mary and Joseph had to leave Nazareth and go to Bethlehem, a long and difficult journey. When they eventually arrived, there was no welcome for them. They were refugees, forced to stay in a stable, but everything was about to change for them.
With the birth of Jesus, an angel and a heavenly host appeared to shepherds on a nearby hillside – blinding light piercing the darkness and leaving them shaken and afraid. ‘Fear not!’ ‘Do not be afraid,’ said the angel and that is the message of Jesus for us today. As God chose shepherds to bring ‘news of great joy’ so too he chooses us today to be his messengers and says to us ‘do not be afraid’.
As the feast of Christmas comes near people have many hopes and expectations, there are pressures created by the clamour of modern life; created by a ‘must have’ society, by fear of what the future may hold, or by memories of Christmas past. Yet in the birth of Jesus there is only simplicity: a child lying in a manger, yet the Son of God among us.
Amid the consumerism of Christmas there are many acts of human kindness, as minds and hearts turn to the needs of others. We welcome the stranger and the refugee; we buy gifts for people we don’t even know, and we give our time to those who are in need. In all the uncertainties of life we have hope which is a sign of love – God’s love for us in sending his Son into the world. Our celebrations too are a sign of God’s love.
Over 2,000 years ago there was a child born for us, a turning point in history which we still rejoice in today, which says that each one of us is loved by God and which takes away fear and gives us hope for the future. We must open our hearts to the welcome offered by our Saviour and let him bring his peace to our lives and to our world.
May this Christmas be a time of peace for us all so that we may know the love of God in our lives.