Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness
Christmas is over...
Time to switch off the fairy lights, put the crib away and return firmly to everyday life, as most of the world has long since done.
The star no longer shines from our church tower...so I wonder if our neighbours and friends will even notice the church in the days ahead.
You see, as our building has stood here for almost 175 years now, it's surprisingly easy to overlook it. On the whole, most people don't notice the landmarks of their locality unless something happens to bring them to life...or something happens to remove them from view altogether.
We know we're here but I wonder if our presence really makes a difference to our community.
Perhaps we need to put the lights on.
Yesterday I had a wonderful time showing a group of Y8 students from Wycliffe round the church, explaining something of what we're about here, and answering their questions.
They were very intrigued by the idea of the parish system – that we continue, as a church, to exist above all for the sake of those who DONT come here to worship, and they wanted to know about some of the ways in which we interact and serve our neighbourhood.
Once I got started, you'll be encouraged to know that it turned out to be quite a long list.
And that got me thinking.
You see, there's no point in worshipping Christ in the manger if we ignore him in the streets, no point in celebrating the coming of Light into the world, if we still choose to linger in darkness.
And in the weeks since Christmas day, there has been a fair bit of darkness in and around this community, as in the wider world.
The darkness of death – for a tiny baby, for a dear friend from this congregation, for a one-time homeless alcoholic, who, almost miraculously, died in his own bed, in his own home, with a good friend nearby.
The darkness of loneliness for some.
For others, the darkness of poverty, illness, fear
We can't do anything to take away that darkness, even for those whom we most love...but we can shine the light of Jesus on all those dark situations, and that's what today is about.
We carry our candles, fill the church with their light as a reminder that Christ the light HAS come into the world.
But when we leave this building, - that's when the light we carry must really begin to act.
It's the light of faith and the light of good works.....the things we believe and the ways in which they lead us to live a different kind of life.
Light to be kindled with the flame of love...our love for God and God's love for us.
Light to show up whatever is grubby or broken or sad...but light that also, gradually, pushes back the darkness so that it is as if it had never been there.
That's the light we are each given to carry
Light that shines through our own acts of kindness.
Light passed on to others in a kind of loving relay, just as when we light our candles here we send the flame from one to another til at last the whole place is full of warmth and beauty once again.
The whole place full of warmth and beauty.
That's quite a goal, - for us, and for our community.
But I truly believe this is the point of our being here.
We do need to put the lights on...to so shine with the love of God that our friends and neighbours can't help but notice, and be drawn in their turn to warmth and beauty beyond anything that we could imagine or attain on our own.
Today Christmas is over – but the light still shines in the darkness, and the darkness will never put it out.
The light from the stable is indeed, as Simeon proclaimed, a light to show God to the nations, and to bring glory to God's people...
And that light is ours to carry into God's world every day of our lives, through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.