All Saints really comes into its own at Christmas
It's a tried and trusted recipe
Take a beautiful building,
some Christmas decorations
and a very talented flower team.
Then add candle-light and the whole thing springs into life.
I love candles, don't you?
They add a beauty all their own and today, the shortest of the year, we are specially thankful for the warmth and light they bring.
They aren't always that convenient, of course...If somebody lost a contact lens during this service (I speak from experience here) we'd doubtless hurry to put the lights on – and when we leave the building, we're glad that there are other lights to guide our way.
We live in an age where light can just happen – at the flick of a switch – so perhaps we don't really grasp how frightening and oppressive darkness can seem, how alarming the longer nights of winter were to our ancestors. Perhaps the sun was gone for good.
We still don't much enjoy the dark
Who knows what dangers might lurk in dark corners, how easily we might get lost , go hopelessly astray as we seek a way home...?
And so the darkness has, since the early days, become an image for all that is sad and broken in our world.
The grieving families, in Newport Connecticut and closer to home in Stroud, feel the darkness very near of course, and across the world there will be many for whom the comfort and joy that we sing about feel impossible.
Terrible, tragic things happen
People mourn, and feel that they will never be happy again...
But still we dare to celebrate.
On this, the longest night of the year, when the darkness, both real and metaphorical, feels very strong we gather to rejoice in that gift of hope that Christmas offers.
Born in poverty, a refugee whose birth was followed by violence and bloodshed, Jesus brought the Love of God into our world in a human life.
From the beginning, he drew others...and as they came close to him, they were touched by that love
which shone through everything that Jesus said, and did and was.
As he grew up, and told them wonderful stories that showed them the way to live, they began to learn to share that love with others.
They told their friends.....who told their friends....who told their friends.....so that down through the ages the light of that love was passed in a relay that puts even the Olympic torch to shame.
Of course – loving like that is costly. Remember, a candle destroys itself as it burns – making a gift of itself to shed light for others.
Loving like that cost Jesus everything...and on the 1st Good Friday, it looked as if the darkness of the world had won forever.
Jesus died – and with him died the hopes and fears of all the years.
But …...after 3 days came Easter, new life, new hope as the light burst forth again...and now, today, we have the choice and the chance to share it with others.
We can share it with our words – as we remind others that Christmas begins with Christ, God's gift for the world forever.
We can share it by our actions – as we give love and care, time and energy, to those who need to know that there IS still love in the world.
It will be costly for us too – at least, if we do it properly...
but it's a cost well worth bearing.
As we go from this church, whatever we are going home to, let us each one carry the light of God's love with us and show to a troubled world the truth that
THE LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARKNESS AND THE DARKNESS HAS NEVER PUT IT OUT.