The year 2020 has been lived in ‘darkness and the shadow of death’. The whole world has been plunged into gloom by the coronavirus pandemic.
Many lives have been lost. Many more people live in fear: fear of Covid-19, or fear of its effects on their families and their finances.
A second spike always seemed likely over the autumn and winter months. Politicians and public health officials have struggled to keep the virus under control, or at least find ways of helping us live with it rather than shutting society down until a vaccine has been found and rolled out.
And now we’re in December, the darkest month. 21 December is the shortest day of the year, with only 7 hours, 49 minutes, and 44 seconds of daylight. But it is also the brightest month of the year as high streets and houses are lit up with a dazzling array of Christmas lights.
The lights may not be switched on to cheering crowds this year, but they will shine brightly nonetheless.
The association of darkness and light is appropriate for the message of Christmas which Christians celebrate at this time of year. Of Jesus it is written, ‘the light shines in the darkness’ (John 1:4).
It is true that the world right now seems a dark place. We hope that there will be ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, but the tunnel can sometimes seem very long and very dark.
In his account of the Christmas story, Luke tells of shepherds watching over their flocks by night. Suddenly an angel of the Lord stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone around them.
Some Christmas lights! Not even the grandest high street illuminations could beat that.
The angel had been sent with news that would light up the shepherds’ lives: ‘Today in the City of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Christ, the Lord’ (Luke 2:11).
The shepherds hurried to see the sight. That very night they saw a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a lowly manger. That baby was none other than Jesus, the light of the world. He came to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the path of peace.
Jesus took on the darkness of sin and death by dying on the cross for our sins. He rose again from the dead, the ultimate triumph of light over darkness.
The Lord Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (John 8:12). Are you following the light of the world?