Christmas Carols 2008
Turn away from the lights
Many of you will know that i am a biker. I do like motorbikes, and take the opportunity to ride whenever i can – and I’m not one of these fairweather bikers, oh no, I will ride wherever and whenever, whatever the weather. And today I got to ride my bike for a couple of hours, which has topped me up, fix wise, for a few days, though you will all, I am sure, be pleased to know that I am riding extra carefully due to the slippery roads at the moment!
But, and some of you may have heard me say this before, there is something you have to watch out for in the darker times of the year. Lights. You see, in a car it doesn’t matter quite so much where you look, your big metal box will keep going in the direction your steering wheel points it, but on a bike, much of your direction comes from where you are looking, because a bike is steered by the way you sit and lean, not just by the handlebars. So where the eye leads, often unconsciously, the bike follows.
Which means that in the winter months, you have to be careful not to be distracted by the lights of the traffic on the other side of the road. You have to keep your focus on the road ahead and not be constantly looking around. Which is quite difficult for someone like me who tends to be distracted very easily. My mum calls it ‘being butterfly minded’ – which is true, if I’m honest.
If you look around at this time of year you will see lots and lots of lights. We’ve got some here in the Church. You only have to drive up through the villages to see an amazing selection of lights on people’s houses, it seems to have become the thing to have more and more lights on our homes at Christmas time and whilst driving around the Mission Community you might wonder if UFO’s had landed with all the lights there are around this time of year.
But I’m not one of those who says ‘bah humbug’ at this, i love the ways that people make such an effort around Christmas to brighten things up. It is, of course, the darkest time of year and we may well feel in need of a little brightness and warmth to drive away the cold and dark nights. I am all in favour of joy, life and light at Christmas, i think it is a great celebration of hope and happiness.
And God knows we need life and light in the world in which we live. It’s easy to have a negative view of the world, seeing what comes at us through the media and some of the things we experience in out lives. We can be forgiven for thinking of the world as a dark place.
But despite this, often in the middle of it, Christmas sheds light, a time of celebrating the good things in life – and if that means plastering houses in lights, or making that extra effort then I think that’s a good thing.
But as Christians we don’t just concentrate on the obvious things at Christmas, we enjoy the festivities (or we should anyway) and we can join in with the various traditions of Christmas that have sprung up over the past few years.
But this is not the whole story, and just like me on my motorbike we shouldn’t be distracted by the lights and keep our focus there. We look beyond the obvious and we remember the reason behind our celebrations.
Whilst we say a resounding ‘yes’ to the things which are good about Christmas – the emphasis on family, on giving, on generosity, the joy and happiness of this time to year. We also realise that Christmas is about God’s resounding ‘yes’ to each one of us that comes through jesus Christ, his Son, sent to show the love of God to the world.
Again and again I am struck by the wonder of Christmas – summed up in the best known verse in the Bible, John’s Gospel Chapter 3 verse 16 – God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him will not die but live forever.
It was God’s love for the world that was the reason he was willing to take on human flesh – to go through everything that we go through. It was God’s love for the world that sent Jesus, vulnerable as any human baby is vulnerable, to grow up and show us how to live, and to pay the price of sin.
Jesus is the true light of the world, beyond all the glitz and glitter of Christmas, he is the the light of truth and hope and love. For those of us who know him, then he is the focus of these coming celebrations.
And the joy that comes from knowing him, the truth of his love and grace is greater than any other joy and truth. It’s the reason that we re-enact the story of Christmas every year, it is the reason that no matter how many times i find myself singing these carols and hearing these readings that the wonder is still there. It’s the old old story (to quote a hymn) which never becomes tired or boring. It’s a time of ancient truths which are relevant to each one of us here and now, no matter what we are going through.
Because knowing that Jesus came as one of us – not a pretend human being, but just like us – and felt the joys, sadness, pain, celebration, laughter and tear that all of us feel means that God isn’t out there somewhere distant but right here with us – he knows what it is like to be hungry, lonely, afraid, confused, grieving, sick.
We don’t have a God who doesn’t care about us, but the message of Christmas is that God loves us completely – even though he knows us completely!
Imagine what that is like, to be loved completely, without reservation. Think of the person you love most in the world and how that feels and multiply that by a thousand times and you won’t even touch how much God loves us.
That’s why we celebrate – that’s why the lights and the decorations and the trees and the presents and the carols and the services and the parties and the lunch and everything else all mean so much – because God is in the middle of it all. God is with us – which is what the title Emmanuel means.
O Come to us, abide with us, our Lord, Emmanuel.
Amen and Thanks be to God.