It’s that time of year again. Our homes and workplaces are covered in tinsel, you can’t leave the house without hearing Christmas music, and we may find ourselves in that all too familiar last minute scramble to buy presents. It’s supposedly the season of peace and goodwill to all, the most wonderful time of the year, all is merry and bright.
But for many across the country this won’t be a ‘Happy Christmas’. Some will be facing Christmas on their own, struggling to keep the loneliness at bay in the face of all the holiday cheer. For others the season will bring back grief and memories of those they have lost, friends and family who won’t be here this Christmas time. Still more will find that illness and struggles seem harder to bear against a backdrop of glitter and jollity. Many families will be experiencing hunger and homelessness this Christmas, aware of all they can’t provide this year.
I can’t help but feel we are in danger of missing the point of this season altogether. I fear we have hidden the truth of this season beneath so many layers of wrapping paper, that it’s barely even visible. And the layers we’ve chosen keep those who need it the most from unwrapping it.
We’ve covered Christmas in presents meaning the poor and the disadvantaged find their lives lacking. We’ve made it about family, and so the lonely and marginalised feel excluded. We’ve decided it’s the season for joy and laughter, and so the grieving and depressed don’t join the party. There will be so many people who will reject Christmas this year because they can’t deal with the wrapping paper. Lost and hurting people who won’t get to find out what treasure lies beneath the surface.
If we strip back all the layers than the truth of Christmas in simple, Light has come. All those years ago, God sent his son to bring light into the darkness of our world, to light the way back to him. God with us.
As we celebrate Christmas this year we can be in no doubt that the world is a dark place. Just this week saw the horror of 141 children and teachers murdered as they attended lessons in their school in Pakistan. Children and parents ripped from their families through unfathomable acts of violence.
And in our own lives we may feel the darkness closing in, as we face our own grief and heartache. We carry with us illness and are confronted with struggles. We bear the scars of the battles we’re fighting, or the pain that has been inflicted on us by others.
We cannot deny that we are surrounded by darkness. We can try to hide it with glitter and tinsel, or to distract ourselves with singing and merriment. But the truth is the world is a dark and desperate place, and their is only one who can bring light to this darkness.
Jesus, who was born into poverty and obscurity. A child who was hunted and forced to flee for his life to a foreign land. One who grew into a man who was betrayed, beaten and killed on a cross. One who suffered the worst humanity could throw at him, so that whatever we face we won’t be alone. But who rose again from the dead with a power stronger than any forces of darkness.
No matter how dark the world seems right now, we have a hope that will not disappoint us. That is the treasure we must find beneath the wrapping paper this Christmas time. Far more important than anything else the season has to offer. It is the flame we have to hold out to the world, which so desperately needs it.
Maybe we need to cast off all the pressures and expectations that Christmas brings, and invite people to the fire.
Light has come.
“The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Matthew 4:16