Into a New Year - "Out of darkness comes light"
"Out of darkness comes light." This is the motto adopted by the first Mayor and Aldermen when Wolverhampton was incorporated as a Borough Council in 1848. Actually they used a Latin phrase (which is only three words) but it was later translated so that all could understand it! It is also the key to our Christian hope. As the darkness around us gets darker we need all the more to draw close to Jesus, who said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
We usually tell the Christmas story as a hope of peace but we live in an increasingly violent and dysfunctional world. There was a time when Syria seemed as peaceful as England. Maybe there will be a time when England is as divided and overwhelmed by terror as Syria - I hope not (in the usual sense of the word 'hope’). But whatever the circumstances may turn out to be - and I do sense that there may be a decline into greater fear and disruption in this country - my real hope is in God.
If there is greater trouble in this country then it will be the poorer and more vulnerable who will suffer first and most. We see this already in the tightening of the rules on benefits as part of the Government’s policy aim of discouraging people from living on benefits but to work, however low the pay. The French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, who was definitely not a Christian but who lived through the Second World War, said in a 1951 play "When the rich make war the poor get killed.” The poor suffer more, but darkness will affect all of us. Some of us might suffer more directly but there is darkness of all kinds around us and some of the wealthiest people in society are also among the loneliest and can suffer from heartbreaking relationship breakdown or mental breakdown.
I said my hope is in God - it can sound like a trite or routine statement. But hope that comes from relationship with God really is like an anchor. In fact in Heb 6:18-20 the writer talks about hope as an anchor that goes through the curtain into heavenly places, into heaven itself. Much of that book is concerned with stirring Christians up to enter God’s presence by faith and to live in the good of what Jesus has done for us. Simply trying to believe something does not have this effect; just hoping for the best does not do it. But entrusting ourselves to God through worship and conversation with Him - ‘through the curtain’ - produces true hope and light in our lives.
Darkness is getting darker. But the light who is Jesus still shines infinitely brightly. The challenge for us is to be so joined to Him and filled by His Spirit that we ourselves are light to those around us. Are we ourselves reflecting the light of Jesus like the moon reflects the sun? We can … if we take seriously what He says to us in Matt 5:14-16 and in John 15:5. It is not our own effort, not our own light that counts. It is as we draw close to Him and allow His light to change us and shine through us that we can be light to others. “Come, let us adore Him” not just at Christmas but into the New Year!