BY any reckoning, December is a rather dark and gloomy time of the year in England. But Christmas 2008 comes amidst more gloom than usual.
The world economic downturn shows no signs of ending, and has already brought distress to many. It reminds us of the greed and lack of judgement in financial affairs that is an ever-present threat to human society. The appalling acts of terrorism in Mumbai remind us of humanity’s continuing inability to live in harmony.
But just as the winter solstice brings assurance that the days must lengthen and warmer days return, so Christmas is a time of hope. It celebrates a baby, born in the poorest of circumstances to a humble carpenter and his wife, who had to flee from persecution a few days after his birth. His coming was not proclaimed by trumpets or the trappings of royal ceremony. It was wise men and shepherds who received the first news of his birth. Yet this baby, born in poverty, soon to be a refugee, was to become one whose life, death and teaching would deeply influence the lives of millions. His birth was a gift from God, a sign of his love for all humanity.
So in the midst of all the secular festivities, let’s turn away from the earthly pleasures of the season, just for a moment. Christmas is a much deeper celebration. It is about hope conquering despair, love vanquishing hate and, above all, as is written in John’s Gospel, about divine light shining out into a darkness that can never extinguish it.
Stephen Linstead, St Alphege Church, Solihull