Views from the Pews – Christmas Sunday 2023

Brothers & Sisters

We are still in the Christmas Season and one of the features of our celebration is the abundance of lights that can be seen at nights decorating some of our shopping plazas, and to a lesser extent at this time, some of our homes.  The dominant message of this Sunday is that Jesus is the light of the world, and we are reminded of this in the collect of the day, and certainly in the gospel, John 1:1-18, which is the same for this Sunday every year.  We are all aware of the power of darkness and the bondage in which it holds so many people.  We have plenty of evidence in the news reports, local and international, and even in our own personal experience, to support what John tells us later that “people love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil (John 3:19).  Now he declares that Jesus is the herald of the only true light that can overcome the power of darkness (1:9), but for the light of Christ to have the desired effect on the world around us, three responses are required from us. 

First, we must see the light.  The light has indeed come into the world, but we will continue to live in darkness and sin if we fail to see the light.  “Seeing the light” is one of the powerful biblical images of conversion. Perhaps the most dramatic expression of this is Paul’s vision of light on the road to Damascus.  Paul’s testimony of that experience leaves us in no doubt that he understood that it was Jesus who had shone his radiant light on him.  We know of the great change that took place in his life, for rather than breathing threats and murder against the followers of Jesus, he became a strong promoter of the faith, a person with a mission to the peoples of the world, “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God” (Acts 26:18).  The starting point is our personal encounter with Jesus, who will allow his light to shine in our hearts, and this can happen in many, many different ways.

Secondly, we must walk in the light.  We learn a bit about what walking in the light means from this passage in 1 John 1:5-7, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you that God is light and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.”  The two important signs given in the text are, “fellowship with God” and “fellowship with one another.”  The chief obstacle to fellowship is sin, and so sin must be confessed, renounced, and cleansed.

Thirdly and finally, we must be a light to others.  When we have seen the light and have received Christ’s light into our lives, and as a consequence learn to walk in the light by renouncing our sinful ways and enjoying fellowship with God and with God’s people, then our task is to be a light to others.  We are given the awesome responsibility to be bearers of Christ’s light to all who continue to live in darkness in this present age.  This is the nature of the challenge presented to us in the Holy Season of Christmas, and we plead in the words of the collect, “Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives” and I would add, “and cause others to see the light and begin the journey.”