So much of the Christmas story seems to be a nighttime event. Whether it was night or day, Jesus was born into a dark time in history.
Rome owned and governed the known world. The government was corrupt, morally and spiritually. The death of innocents in the Coliseum was a major form of entertainment. Their emperors who wanted to be worshipped as gods were lustful, evil creations. Rome spread that darkness throughout their Empire.
The local ruler in Jerusalem, Herod, was a notorious madman. The Roman Senate had proclaimed him King calling him “King of Judea.” The Roman army forced him on his people. Once Herod was in power, he immediately killed forty-five of the wealthiest citizens and confiscated their property for his own use. He was incurably ill, nearly 70-years-old, and insane when the wise men came looking for Jesus. While the killing of all the male babies in Bethlehem under two years of age shocks us, it was typical of Herod. He had slaughtered his sons and executed his favourite wife. Why wouldn’t he kill babies in Bethlehem?
Even the good people, the religious Pharisees, would become enemies of Jesus. His message would unsettle and irritate them until they would finally conspire and bring him as a common criminal to crucifixion.
I share these few details to show how dark the world was when Jesus was born. Into that dark Roman world, a great light did come. Few saw it or imagined it possible; most missed it but yet it was there. The cosmos knew the poor knew; the religious and powerful did not. Two millenniums later, we know.
Do you think it’s a dark world now, darker than that time in Bethlehem so long ago? Or is there a great light shining? Is it hard to imagine that the darkness can never put the light out?
However dark the space you might be in, or dark the world seems to be in places everywhere, this light has not been extinguished. It glimmers in the human heart. It glimmers when a quiet voice within says keep believing, or whispers all is not lost; or when a crowd roars and every individual knows that the price of change for their country will mean their total commitment; or when one life from a great tragedy can be saved when so many others have perished. This is the light of Jesus’ love. It has many faces and it keeps shining even as a flicker; in the critical units of hospitals; in the aftermath of volcanic explosions; on the beaches where the refugees crawl ashore leaving many of their companions forever; in the crevices of parched land where one hardy plant clings to life. This light does go out for many – they die of hunger; of from injustice, from loneliness, from broken hearts and the world is darker. But the birth of Jesus says to me that the light can shine again with every new birth. It is a chance for the world and that is you and me to renew our commitment; to open themselves to the mercy, forgiveness and generosity of the one who for all of the time is the Light waiting to show the way to a different world.
What about you? However, you feel, whatever your background, whatever your situation, I suspect deep down you hope this light will shine in you. I believe we all hope that tears of sadness will be replaced by tears of joy.
In the one called Jesus Christ is a tender but strong call to hold on in the darkness. This is for you and you can call to others in their darkness with this light.
My prayer is that the light will shine for you and that it will shine in you. Soon it is 2020. Give yourself to his great light.
My love, Rev Pauline