Light shining in the darkness

The last few months have been challenging, to say the least, in the life of Tyndale – a number of deaths and news of illness among others.  There are also good things happening around the place, as some of Rachel’s work begins to have an impact, particularly.

NativityI guess it is often like this in life – difficult things and joyful things in the mix – and in the life of faith. Christmas, though, remains a point in time when much of the language used and the sentiments expressed has to do with the joyful – news of a baby born, ‘glory to the new born King’, ‘Joy to the world, the Lord is come’ – that kind of thing.

And the world around each year seeks to squeeze ever greater levels of bonhomie, joy and festive cheer out of the celebration; smiles on the faces of the model families in the advertisements appear to be getting wider all the time; partygoers’ revelries exceed the heights previously reached, and so on.

It’s perfectly understandable why this should be so; the pre-Christian roots of a winter festival had all to do with signs of light at the darkest point of the year; there is plenty of ‘light shining in the darkness’ stuff to be found in the Christmas story itself; we will wish each other a happy, or a joyful, or a peaceful Christmas and it will be heartfelt – we really do want things to be good for our friends and loved ones; we really do believe that the light of Christ shines in the darkness.

But the Christmas story is told through the lives of people whose lives were as mixed as ours; the Magi had a ‘cold coming of it’; the shepherds were among the most poor and marginalised in society; the birth was ‘out of place’ – the slaughtered innocents, the vicious Herod, the flight into Egypt – these belong as well.

And it was, not, of course, Christmas – whatever happened, that has become the focus of so much revelry and ribaldry today; it was not a great celebration into which baby Jesus was born; it was unnoticed by most of the world; it took place in an outoftheway corner of empire; it had no noticeable effect on the life of the world for centuries – wasn’t even part of the Church’s liturgy for a long time.

But it was, and remains, a source of joy – not the shallow happiness made possible by consumer spending, overeating and drinking and partying – but truly, a joy made of deeper things; signs of peace, the dawn of hope; the possibility of love – the love of God, indeed – an unending, unquenchable light, shining in the darkness – or, to put it another way – in the ‘mix’ of our experience in this world.

Come what may – a line I find myself returning to over and over again. Our lives – the life of Tyndale – the life of the world – will continue to be made up of good and bad, difficult and encouraging things, but the joy that we seek to express in this season come what may runs through, and beneath, and beyond all of it; it’s not joy as the world gives joy, but joy that’s generated in the heart of God, streaming towards us, surrounding us and uplifting us at this or any time of the year come what may… through the baby of Bethlehem become the man of Nazareth become the dying Saviour, become the risen Lord.

Light shining in the darkness come what may

Michael Docker