St Matthews Digital
Advent and Christmas
24 December 2019
Christmas in the dark
Helen Jacobi explores John 1:1-14 and its concept of light
Rev Helen Jacobi
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Christmas in the dark
Why do we come to church and the dark tonight? Why that's night and not other nights? What is it about Christmas? That means we want to be here at midnight to usher in the day.
Maybe coming to church in the dark, seems more magical, the candle light, the joy of being with friends and family, maybe the sense of expectation is heightened.
Maybe there's something to about claiming the darkness.
We just heard red and Our Gospel reading the light shines in the darkness and the Darkness did not overcome it.
John the gospel writer proclaims with confidence that light shines and it cannot be overcome.
I don't think I was ever really afraid of the dark as a child, but I guess, lots of children are and we're cautious. Even as adults in the dark, we have security lights and street lights, to help us feel secure. If you live in an apartment building the lights and the corridors never go out in the city.
The lights never go out.
If you want to see some Stars, you certainly need to get further away from City Lights.
But tonight, we embrace the dark.
At the beginning of our service, we lit the Christ, Candle on the Advent, wreath that Reef that's in between the choir stalls here. Each of the purple candles represents a week of Advent and each candle has a meaning attached to it. The first one, on the first Sunday of Advent, we looked for Hope then the second for peace. The third for joy, and the fourth for love. They're all Advent themes that lead us into Christmas, the candles bring light.
And the Darkness does not overcome them. And then tonight we let the Christ Candle. We are hope, peace, joy and love all come together and are not overcome by the darkness.
But our to your, our 2019 was a year. When I think we felt we could be overcome by Darkness.
the Christchurch mosque shootings, the measles epidemic, which we exported to Psalm, or and just recently the fuck Ari white Island, eruptions and that's just for our little Nation without all the world events of unstable politics, and of course, without the big one climate change, We probably felt we could be overwhelmed by the darkness, but Isaiah promised that God would comfort God's people. His people had been in exile for many things, for many generations and were returning to their Homeland. He promises them hope in the darkness and John promises light in the Darkness.
And we saw plenty of light this year, as well. The way communities responded and came together, the way our leaders were able to express the mood of our nation.
But if you are someone who lost a loved one in Christchurch or if you're sitting at the bedside of a Burns victim or if you're a doctor or nurse, treating those patients, then the darkness will still be feeling pretty overwhelming tonight.
And simply turning the lights up, adding more street, lights, more security, lighting, more candles that doesn't bring about change.
What we need is a different kind of light.
The light that shines in the darkness and the Darkness does not overcome it.
Thousands of years before John wrote those words storytellers passing down the story of creation from the memories of their for mothers and forefathers. They had said the same thing.
They said in the beginning, God said, let there be light and there was light and God saw the light was good and God separated the light from the darkness.
Many creation stories from cultures across the world speak of the coming of light is essential to the beginning of Life.
Like our own story of Ronnie and papatuanuku the sky and the Earth who must separate to allow light in, so that life can come forth.
John's power more Hem of the coming of the word begins in the same place with light and it's the light that literally shines like a candle or a son or the word that John uses and Greek can also mean understanding or Enlightenment, or truth.
So we could translate it the light shines in the darkness. And the Darkness did not overcome it or understanding shines and places of ignorance and darkness has not seized it.
So tonight in the dark, we seek that light and we seek understanding and wisdom.
And this light is not just a light as bright as the sun too. Bright to Blind us and banish the darkness. Instead at lives alongside the darkness like dark like night and day live alongside each other.
One of my favorite writers, Barbara Brown Taylor, who is an American writer. She has a book called learning to walk and the dark, and it actually recounts being taken to a cave by a friend. So she could experience real darkness. And in one cave just before she turned off her head lamp where she was then going to sit for a couple of hours just to feel the darkness. Before she turns it off, she spots a sparkly, stone, full of light sheep.
Sit into a pocket as a souvenir knowing she probably shouldn't have taken the stones from the cave, but when she gets home and she takes it out of a bag, it just looks like a piece of gravel.
She says I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light things that have saved my life over and over again. So there's really only one logical conclusion. I need Darkness, as much as I need light.
We don't want life to be hard. We don't want suffering for ourselves or for others, but we also know that from the dark times in our lives can come learning and strength and Hope.
And we have to work to bring about that change in the darkness, when we find ourselves in those places of Darkness, we have to seek the light and seek understanding to bring about change and amongst the darkness of white supremacy ideology which led to the Christ Church Massacre. That requires spending time that that cut spending time acknowledging that that kind of awful ideology exists.
It requires us to spend time in the darkness so we can find out how peoples and governments can work together to eradicate that evil and the racism which is part of that ideology.
Muslim leaders are telling us that hatred is rising and not falling.
We can't magically fix these problems. Even on this, most magical of nights.
Rather with the strength of light with n, we can together listen and work together and bring about change and with the strength of The Light Within, we can bring the comfort that Isaiah promised to those in grief or physical pain.
Jesus journey into our world began in the same way as each one of us in the darkness of the womb. There's an early church tradition which tells that Jesus was born in a cave, which fits quite quite okay with Luke's account of Jesus being born in a stable, because Stables were often Caves at the back of the house. If the house was next, to a hill, Jesus was born into the quietness and dark.
Nurse of a humble home with family and animals around.
And his life Journey ended in the darkness of a tomb, which was also a cave.
And then light broke into the darkness, the light of New Life, the light of Resurrection.
And so, we gather tonight in the dark.
The dark of a womb, the dark of a cave, the Dark of the night, the dark of creation waiting for first light.
This darkness is good as God created it. This darkness is safe.
We know there is much in the world that is not safe much in the world, that is sad and wrong and evil. And so we come this night to seek the light, the light that was created at the beginning of time, and the light that was born that first Christmas night.
The light that shines in the darkness and the Darkness has not overcome it.