They seem to go up earlier every year! Even before the clocks went back, the workmen were out in some High Streets to put up the Christmas lights, and the first mention in a traffic report of a street being closed for the switch-on came in the first week of November. The Christmas lights may be there mainly to encourage shopping, but they are also an important symbol of what Christmas is about.
It is very significant that Christmas comes at the darkest time of the year, when we need to be given light to see our way and to feel safe from danger. There is something welcoming and reassuring about the warm glow of light when we come in on a dark night. Behind all the festivity and fun of Christmas is a serious message, telling us how, by sending His Son to share our human life, God has acted to rescue us from the dangers of sin and death and to show us how to live a new sort of life.
Saint John uses two important images to tell us the meaning of Christmas. He speaks of Jesus as the "Word" of God - "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory" - meaning that in Jesus God shows us Himself. None of us has ever seen God, but for Christians, Jesus is the "express image" of God - in other words, if you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus.
John's second image was light - a light that shines all around us to banish the darkness and to show us the way. Not only does Jesus show us the truth about God; He also shows us the truth about ourselves. Jesus is what human beings should be like, and wherever individual men, women and children try to follow the way of life marked out by Jesus, there His light shines to banish the darkness of the world.
The world of 2005 has some very dark areas. The dark shadow of terrorism haunts much of the world, as do war and the fear of war, hunger, tyranny and exploitation. Darkness rules where selfishness and greed destroy people's livelihoods, and where fear and poverty extinguish hope and joy. The Good News of Christmas is that the Light of God shines to dispel this darkness. But that Light needs to be focussed in the lives of people who try to live in Jesus's way, showing the same integrity and compassion for others that characterized His life. Can that include you and me? I hope so - and I invite you to join us in our Christmas worship in your Parish Church, to celebrate the coming of the Light of Christ, and to seek God's help in letting that Light into our lives so that it may shine out through us and make the world in 2006 a better place than it was in 2005.
May God bless you all, and grant you a holy and peaceful Christmas, and many blessings in the New Year. MALCOLM
- February 2005
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About the Vicar's Letter
The Vicar's Letter has been appearing in the villages Focus magazine since August 2002.
The Rev. Peter Graham also used to publish The Vicar's Letter in the parish magazine of 1964. Please see the Vicar's Letter area for these.