In the Gospel which will be read across the world on Christmas day, St John describes the coming of Jesus Christ in the Nativity as a struggle between light and darkness – a struggle in which there is only one victor:
The Word (that is Jesus Christ), was the true light that enlightens all men and women… a light that shines in the darkness, a light that darkness could not overpower.
As we journey through this winter month of December, the nights draw in and the days grow darker. It may seem to us, too, that the world around us is darkened and clouded by injustice in the form of poverty, hunger and homelessness, in the form of uncertainty and dissension.
Deep divisions seem to shadow our society and our communities; divisions too about our nature and identity as a country and its place in the world, with no clear path visible where those who have disagreed might learn to walk forward together.
By way of contrast, our television and computer screens are full of bright but garish and deceptive lights: the lights of celebrity culture, and of consumerism, that lead us up blind alleys and cul-de-sacs, where Christmas is valued only in terms of what we buy and spend and consume.
How we need the clarity and the simplicity of St John’s vision! The light that the apostle John saw is not a glittering object that momentarily distracts us from the darkness. It is a Person – the Person of Jesus Christ, who steps into the darkness and difficulties of our world and of our lives to brighten them and lead them with God’s love.
How we need the optimism of St John! Jesus Christ comes to us in vulnerability and frailty, as a helpless child. Yet the love he embodies and proclaims cannot be defeated, not even by death itself, and will, in the end, be the only answer to the questions troubling our uncertain world. The path that He illumines will always lead to unity and peace, to love and mercy.
A light shines in the darkness, a light that darkness could not overpower.
May the Light who is Jesus Christ, guide and bless you and your family this Christmas and throughout the coming year.
With my good wishes and blessing for a peaceful and joyful celebration.
Click below to listen to Bishop Alan giving his Christmas message to listeners of BBC Radio Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.