In the depths of November, light feels like it’s in short supply. If you’re anything like me, that takes its toll. Gloom seems to descend inwardly, as well as outside. And at the end of this year in particular, the darkness feels especially heavy. The activities most painfully absent are all those that would usually provide hope and comfort, the cosy nights in together, festive gatherings, family reunions, sharing food, New Year’s Eve parties, the list goes on. Christmas has become the latest covid casualty.
The image of light in the darkness brings a sense of hope. The artist Sho Shibuya captured this beautifully during lockdown, painting the sunrise of each day over the cover of the New York Times. (@shoshibuya)
No matter how dark the news became, the sun still rose. Each day, light still broke over the horizon to penetrate the darkness.
It’s a beautiful image that invokes a certain sense of defiant hope amidst the chaos of 2020. But though the night ends and the sun rises, the realities of the world remain the same. If anything, we simply see them more clearly in the cold light of day. Disease, injustice and division persist.
The sunrise breaks over our world, but the world remains the same. We need someone to break into it.
John’s gospel begins with some of the most famous words in the world. All over the globe they’re read at this time of year:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
He continues later:
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John writes of Jesus, the ‘Word’ – the one through whom everything has been made, the one who is God himself, the one in whom is life and light. But this light isn’t impersonal. This light doesn’t just illuminate our pain, he appropriates it, takes it upon himself in order to bring restoration. He doesn’t stand on the horizon and beckon us towards him, he enters our world and steps down into our mess and struggle to lift us up. He became flesh and made his dwelling among us. Light broke into our world.
John goes on to write of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. In Jesus we find a hope that proclaims disease does not have the final word, injustice will not be overlooked and division is not irreparable.
In the depths of this year’s November darkness, you may feel that the usual sources of hope have been extinguished. Our expectations for our lives and our confidence in our ability to control it have been shaken. It’s become clear that we need a hope that is based on something more secure, a light that is not overcome by darkness. Jesus offers light that will not be extinguished, hope that holds fast in suffering and life that death cannot steal. A light has dawned, not just over our world, but in it. You can find the rest of the story here.