The village of Theydon Bois is very unusual. You only notice its outstanding feature when you visit at night as I was doing earlier in the year. For an evening meeting some people will arrive by car even though they only live 200 yards along the very flat road. Others will arrive carrying enormous torches. Theydon Bois is only half an hour from here. It is inside the M25 and has its own tube station on the Central line. But the village stands out because even though it has 4000 people it has no street lights at all. When night falls, it gets dark. Very dark. Surprisingly dark. Darker than most of us who live in towns ever experience.
Of course we only notice the dark in places like Theydon Bois because we are so used to having light. We live in a 24 hour a day society. You can buy your Christmas dinner at Tescos at 3 am this week if you want to. And indeed you may want to because the queues in daylight hours will be horrendous! You still have 4 more evenings to do your Christmas shopping in Lakeside with all the shops open until 11 pm – 7 hours after it will have gone dark and cold outside.
Life was not always like that. Until gas lighting became popular in Victorian England most people preferred to be safe inside their houses once night fell outside. The same would be true outside the cities where they have no electricity in places like Africa even today. People may have oil lamps or candles indoors but outside at night it is dark, very dark. We can surround ourselves with as much electric light as we want. But our ancestors could not. Billions of people around the world still cannot. No wonder most people have an instinctive and completely rational fear of the dark. The dark contains unseen dangers, obstacles, wild animals and evil men which we can only imagine. So darkness came to represent all that is unknown, all that is sinister, all that is evil.
That is why God promises light for his chosen people.
Isa 9: 2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.Darkness is the shadow of death – light brings life.
Isa 60 “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. Into this dark world God sent His only Son Jesus Christ to be the light of the world. To bring light to our darkness. To rescue us from gloom and sadness and bring us joy and happiness. To set us free from our fears and give us peace and hope. To deliver us from ignorance and bring us knowledge and wisdom. To drive out sinister creeping evil and bring us goodness.
John 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
Jesus Christ, God born as a human being, bringing light into this dark, dark world.
In thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light.
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
And God sent a star to lead those wise men to Jesus the light of the world. The star wasn’t the light of the world. Jesus was the light of the world. That’s why Christians light candles at Christmas and put up lights on our houses. Not lights to remind us of the star which pointed the way to Jesus, but lights which remind us of Jesus, who is the light of the world.
There are some beautiful and spectacular decorations outside houses this year. But the true meaning of Christmas lights is only found in Jesus – the Light of the World. Jesus who said
John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
A wise man once said, “There is no greater darkness than a soul that has lost its way.” And it’s true. If you turn your back to the light, all you can see is your own shadow. For the last 2000 years Christians and Churches have been lighting candles to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ the light of the world – sent so that we need no longer fear the darkness.
That is the good news of Christmas!
May the light of Christ lighten our darkness, and bring us the peace and joy of Christmas.