For unto us a child was born; in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. (Jn 1:4)
It’s been nine long months now since the stranger told Mary she was pregnant. All those difficult conversations, the threat to their marriage, the nagging doubts finally quelled, more or less, by another angelic visitor; this time to Joseph as he slept. Then, when things finally looked settled, came the summons to Bethlehem, for a census. Now, in a hastily prepared birthing space in the corner of a stable, Mary’s baby arrives; just as the stranger had said.
Far from home, with no family to share their good news, Mary and Joseph are visited by some shepherds, who tell of a vision of angels. Could these angels be the same beings who appeared to Mary and Joseph nearly nine months earlier? Is this son of theirs really as special as they have been told?
2000 years later this birth has become a focus for the world’s greatest party. Families gather from far and wide. Churches, town squares, concert halls and shopping malls; all fill with joyful songs of praise. For a few days every year the story of this birth is retold, spirits are lifted and we dare to hope for new and better beginnings. We wish, if it can’t always be Christmas, then at least the spirit of Christmas could live on. We wish, but is that all?
We can’t remain in perpetual Christmas. If we did, how could Mary’s child grow, mature and fulfil his potential – and how would we? This year, whatever our personal circumstances, however enthusiastically we sing the wondrous story, the shadow of the last nine months looms over us, body and soul, like the leaden sky of a rain-soaked dusk. We long for light, but dawn seems a distant dream.
In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shone in the darkness, which could neither comprehend it nor overcome it. As body and soul contend with the darkness, we are brought afresh to Advent and Christmas. The Word has become flesh and dwelt amongst us. We are invited to see once more his glory; the light which darkness has not, cannot, overcome.
Rev Philip Payne
The Pew Sheet for 27th December can be found on Downloads