Letter from the Vicar (December 2008/January 2009)
One of the most important symbols of Advent and Christmas is light. Here in Weymouth we have our Christmas lights up already as I write (on 11th November). But even in time past the use of light to celebrate Advent and Christmas was a vital ingredient in the celebration.
Part of this is due, of course, to the fact that the origin of Christmas has much to do with celebrating the lengthening of the days and the recovery of the sun’s light after the winter solstice. Indeed the Church took over an already existing Roman festival, the feast of the invincible sun, and used it for its purposes as the feast to celebrate the birth of Jesus. In reality we’ve no idea when he was born. It could have in mid-summer for all we know! As everyone knows in Australia that’s precisely when Christmas is!
But the Church placed its celebration of the expectation of and birth of Jesus at this time of year for a very good reason. The birth of Jesus is all about the presence of light in a world which often seems apparently full of darkness. As we celebrate Advent and Christmas at this dark time of year we are reassured that dark though this world often appears to be, the light is stronger than the darkness and will never be overcome by it. The incarnation is God’s way of reminding us and reassuring us of this, as is the whole of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. It is all about the certainty of love.
The message of Christmas is deeply positive and optimistic. This is despite the fact that there is genuine darkness to be overcome, that there is a struggle going on between love and evil. The Advent of Christ teaches us that the outcome of that struggle is not finally in doubt. In the end love will triumph. But in the meantime we are caught up in a continuing conflict. Many people today do not appreciate the extent of the darkness. We live in a world in which many of the ancient landmarks have been removed.
There is some good in this. These days people are unwilling to put up with cant and hypocrisy. Rightly they won’t bow down to vested authority. Just because someone’s got a special title or a special uniform doesn’t mean they’re always right. On the other hand I believe that our moral sensitivities are not as sharp as they ought to be. We are sometimes willing to tolerate and connive at evil when we should oppose it.
This is true of things both little and large. It’s so easy to fall in with prejudiced attitudes when we know them to be wrong. It’s so easy to tell lies to get ourselves off the hook. It’s so easy to cause havoc in personal relationships by concentrating on what will give ‘me’ pleasure. It’s much harder to speak up for what we know to be right. It’s much harder to tell the truth when it means losing face. It’s much harder to be self disciplined. But choosing the path of light is not a matter of choosing the easy option. God’s easy option was to turn his back on this world. Mary’s easy option would have been to have had nothing to do with the birth of Jesus. Jesus’ easy option would have been to avoid the cross. The hard option was to enter this world, to have the baby, to face the cross. In each case the hard choice was the choice for the light.
Sometimes we need to be willing to make hard choices which may bring short term pain for long term gain. Such choices may not be pleasurable in the short term but which will bring genuine happiness to us and to others in the long run. You know what your hard choices are in your life. Deep down I think most of us know the way of the light. However dark things seem to get there’s still enough light to see by.
May Jesus Christ and the message of Advent and the Christmas message inspire you to follow the light, to struggle with the darkness and to subdue it in your own life. And then the light of Christmas will always shine brightly in your heart and soul!
Yours sincerely and a happy Christmas,