The message of this Christmas is to be found in the opening sentence of the prophet Isaiah; ‘The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone.’ This is a Christmas like no other. No one has ever been through the darkness that we have this year. But that light, which Isaiah speaks about, is the same light that the Shepherds saw, when the angels appeared to them, and told them, ‘I bring you news of great joy… Today in the town of David a saviour has been born to you.’ It was the same light the Magi saw and led them to Bethlehem. That light which lightens up the darkness is in fact a child lying in a manger; but a child that is unique: that child is God in human form.
Back in 1997 the Queen used her Christmas message to speak about an ‘annus horribilis’; a horrible year. I think she may well do the same this year, but for different reasons. We have all gone through a most difficult time: a time of loss for many people who have lost loved ones; at time of loneliness for many, and of anxiety for most of us; people are fearful for the future. This pandemic has made us aware of how fragile we are, as well as our world; one microscopic virus has almost brought the world to its knees. I am sure that many a person has just wanted to get away from it all; but the trouble is there is no where to go.
But out of this darkness a light has shone. That light shines in our hearts. Earlier on tonight I experienced a reflection of that light, when our neighbours asked us to join them outside in singing a few carols; we were just a few but then other in the street joined in, people came to their windows. And all because we were rejoicing that our saviour has been born to us. I was almost moved to tears because this kind of coming together doesn’t usually happen in well off neighbourhoods, where everyone tends to be independent. It reminded me of how we came together earlier in the year to applaud the NHS.
That light that shines in our hearts can never go out, because that light is Christ. Tonight we give thanks to God our Father, that He has sent His son into our dark world that we might have light and not only light but peace and joy. No wonder we sing. No wonder we come together to give thanks. Yes, a light has shone in our darkness, and it is a light that the dark could not and can never over come. The same message the shepherds heard is repeated tonight: “I bring you news of great joy; today a saviour has been born for us, Christ the Lord.’