There appear to be more Christmas lights and displays on houses this year than in the past. Father Christmases going up and down chimneys. Reindeer racing across roof-tops. Large stockings with toys peeping out the top. It is as though all these lights are punching through the darkness of the winter night with the message that light is preferable to darkness; hope is preferable to fear. Perhaps there are more lights this year making a statement in the face of the difficult circumstances being faced by so many.
Christmas is a time light and hope are celebrated. At the time of Jesus’ birth, the people of Israel were facing a dark and difficult time in their history. They were facing a lack of leadership in their own communities compounded by a crisis of identity under an oppressive Roman rule. It was into this background that Jesus Christ, God himself, was born. The God who was apart from his creation, became, at the same time, a vulnerable part of that same creation. Jesus was the personification of light and hope. It is no accident that St. Luke’s Gospel relates Jesus’ birth taking place at night, bringing light and hope to a troubled region. St.John’s Gospel says that this same Jesus Christ has come in order than men and women can live life to the full and grow to their greatest potential through good times and bad.
This gift of light and hope is available to all who wish to accept it. This gift has kept many people going during difficult times (see ‘Harare moves into a New Future’) and it brings purpose, direction and energy in good times. God never forces himself into our lives, but Christmas is a time when we are reminded that this gift, realised in a relationship with Jesus Christ, is always available to bring life and potential in unexpected ways and at unexpected times.