“Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light”
The world we live in in not the idyllic world our grandparents grew up in. Our world is far more broken, complex, messy and violent. We face unprecedented crises; we are plagued by global warming and pollution, wars and economic uncertainties, social unrest and fundamentalism. Yet, God’s mercy-filled light infuses our morose world with a goodness that keeps bursting out of the brokenness, complexities, messiness and violence with joy and healing. This image of his grace powerfully illustrated in our carols at this time of the year, like O Little Town of Bethlehem.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the Everlasting Light.
The hope and fears, of all the years, are met in thee tonight.
Reflecting on these words help to reveal what Christmas does to us and for us. In the midst of the darkness, pain, brokenness, the Everlasting Light breaks through and love is borne into the world by the incarnate Lord.
As the story of Christmas begins, we are reminded of the power of empires and governments. The Roman Empire ruled so formidably that it had no serious opposition, until at last in ease and luxury it decayed from within. By the providence of God, that same empire helped to prepare the world for Christmas. With a firm hand it established and kept peace and order throughout the empire, making it easier to share the good news that the desire of nations had come.
Though Caesar’s decree brought Mary and Jospeh to Bethlehem, the empire could not bring Christmas – the same Caesar tried to kill the Prophesied Sun. God sent His Son beyond the reach of danger, and so Christmas lives.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me on who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” – Micah 5:2
Had we been in Bethlehem in the days before Christmas, we would have noted the increasing buzz of business activity. The mobile armies of Rome were major buyers of consumer good, so, indeed, were the groups of taxpayers returning to the homes of their ancestors for Caesar’s census. Even Joseph and Mary must have contributed to the economy by buying food on their journey. But Christmas is not borne on wings of prosperity. To a lowly town, The Child of Christmas came to be birthed in a lowly manger -but Christmas came.
Perhaps you can relate to the spirit of lowliness this season. Perhaps there is darkness from personal struggles, health issues, family drama or friendship strife. Perhaps you face impending threats to business or finances. Darkness and brokenness can cause fear, but the Everlasting Light has been born into this world to offer hope.
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell
Oh, come to us, abide in us, our Lord Immanuel!
The first verse of O Little Town of Bethlehem shows us what Christmas really means. It reveals that the birth of Jesus is the source for all our hope. But the last verse shows how this is accomplished. While we only celebrate the birth of Jesus once a year, the meaning of Christmas isn’t a one-time thing. The true purpose of Christmas is welcoming Christ into our lives every day of the year—to abide in us.
In the face of such huge problems and challenges facing us, we must think global but act local. Christmas celebrates God coming into the world to save the whole world. But God needs our cooperation and goodwill. We must become agents of God’s salvation by our mutual love and acceptance and our care for the earth. May our families and communities be places where everyone feels welcomed and loved without distinction. And may we share the peace, joy and love of Christmas with all we meet each day.
Transformation begins with me.
I take this opportunity to wish everyone, a blessed Christmas filled with love and joy and a happy and peaceful New Year. May the peace, joy and love from the new born Prince of Peace transform our hearts, our families and our communities and bless Barbados with peace, harmony and mutual love. Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers, and the thoughts and prayer of the people called Methodists.