We took our Christmas tree down last Sunday. It always is a bit sad to see the house less twinkly but maybe like me you’ve just started to notice that the days are ever so slightly getting longer. Our Christmas decorations give us light, colour and warmth in the darkest and coldest time in the winter solstice. But once the natural light circles round again, we can pack away and store our lights, baubles and tinsel. They’ve done their job!
As an evergreen, Christmas trees also represent life and growth at a time of year when most plants are hibernating. By its very greenness the Christmas tree reminds us that spring is coming. If you’ve seen the Narnia films, or read C S Lewis’ books before that, you will know that the lion Aslan breaks the wintery spell of the white witch. Aslan enables things to grow, life to flourish and darkness to give way to light. C S Lewis wrote his stories as metaphors for our Christian faith in Jesus.
There is no denying, our present times are dark in that our NHS staff are under extreme pressure, people are dying from covid19, many are struggling with loneliness and there are so many disruptions to businesses and schools and ways of being community, including meeting physically in churches. The vaccine is a wonderful light in all this darkness. The roll out of this life-protecting jab gives us hope, and we probably all know people in our community who have already received theirs.
But as I watch the news and see first hand the suffering around me, I am most thankful for my faith in God’s goodness. Jesus is the hope that dispels fear in me. It’s helpful that Christmas dates to 25th December. Not because that was Jesus’ probable date of birth, but because we celebrate God coming into our darkness as the Light of the world.
I’m currently reading a book called God on Mute by Pete Grieg. It is a great book for our current times because people are wondering where God is in this pandemic. Seasons of unanswered prayers can damage our relationship with God, but this book explores how we can walk through pain and lament and still hold onto the truth that God is for us.
Grieg’s book explores Jesus’ own journey of suffering and unanswered prayer; Jesus experienced the feeling of disconnection from God as he prayed on Maundy Thursday before his arrest, on Good Friday as he was horribly crucified and on Holy Saturday when nothing seemed to be happening. But then on Easter Sunday hope breaks in, light fills a grave and Jesus overcomes death by rising to new life.
Christmas is a key moment - it’s like before Jesus came we were groping around in the dark; but now born as one of us Jesus illuminates things for us. We see from love’s perspective how much God cherishes us and how Jesus daily makes a way for us humans to know closeness with God, no matter what our circumstances.
So, whether like me you’ve cleared all signs of Christmas away, or you are still hanging on to some decorations, let’s be thankful that in a small way they help us celebrate the birth of Jesus coming into our lives as the Light of the world.