As I prepared to write my Christmas cards this year, I paused as I thought what to write in my Christmas letters. I’ve lived in different areas of the country over the years and keep in touch with several people with our annual Christmas correspondence. I eagerly anticipate the arrival of Christmas cards and letters from friends in different parts of the country with news of their joys and sorrows during the past year. Looking back on this year it felt difficult to know what to write at first. It has not been a year that we would have hoped for or planned. There have been challenges faced by lockdowns, government restrictions and illness, family gatherings have been curtailed, holidays cancelled, and work has been challenging and uncertain for many. There has been much tragedy and loss during the year.
Yet, as I wrote my news, I wrote about joys and celebrations too – outdoor gatherings and picnics with family and friends and the joy of wedding celebrations with three young couples who I care deeply for. I have enjoyed my work in Halesworth library and for Halesworth Community Church, in continuing to build and develop the website. My understanding of myself and others has grown, relationships have deepened and, most importantly, my relationship with the Lord has strengthened. I’ve seen the Lord’s love and faithfulness throughout all the circumstances of a tumultuous year and that gives me confidence to approach 2022, whatever it may bring, knowing that each of us are safe within God’s hands. I found I had plenty to write about!
I’ve been reading John’s gospel and letters recently and have thought much about light and darkness as Christmas approaches. At the beginning of John’s gospel is the incredible statement that Jesus was with God in the beginning, echoing Genesis 1. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5)
The world around us can feel a very dark place at times and I’m aware of a growing anxiety and despair in many of the people I talk to at work. Isaiah prophesied, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2) That is the essence of the Christmas message, that Jesus brought light into the darkness of the world around us and light into our hearts to replace the anxieties, fears and guilt which may reside there. As we let the light of Christ pervade the dark areas in our hearts, so we will be able to take his light into our world, to the people we meet and mix with.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)