Isaiah 9:2-6; John 1:1-5, 9
St Barbara’s 01.12.2019
Rev Tulo Raistrick
This time of year the daylight disappears quickly. In deed we are less than 3 weeks away from the shortest day of the year.
If you are like me you may miss the daylight. We need light.
When the gospel-writer John was writing his gospel, he was trying to think of a way to describe who Jesus was, to try and give a sense of just how important and special he was. His problem was that there had never been anyone like Jesus before. How do you convey who Jesus is? After a lot of thought and prayer he wrote the words we heard in our gospel reading. He describes Jesus as the “light of the world”.
That is an amazing image.
When we are walking along a footpath at night, we need light to see where we are going – whether that is a street lamp, a torch or the light of the moon. In the daytime we also need light – the light of the sun. Without light, we would get completely lost. Jesus, John says, is the light of the world – he shows us the way, he is our guide in life.
We need light to grow and be healthy. Without light, nature would die. Light is essential for growth. Without light, we gradually become less and less healthy. Stay inside a dark room for many days and we emerge pale and spotty! When John says Jesus is the light of the world, he is saying he is the one who helps us to grow, to live a full and vibrant life. He gives us life, he is the source of life.
We need light to give us hope and courage. I remember as a little child always needing a light on in my bedroom when I was going to sleep. Gradually as I got older, I moved to not needing a light on in my room, but to having the landing light on and my bedroom door a little ajar. Being totally in the dark was a bit scary. As adults we talk about going through “dark times”, difficult times, worrying times. Jesus is the light of the world. He comforts us, reassures us, gives us hope and courage in difficult times. I know that many of you have found that to be true for you too.
John’s image of Jesus as the light of the world drew on a long-established tradition.
Seven hundred years before Jesus was born there lived the prophet Isaiah. He lived at a time of great turmoil. People were living in fear for their lives. The government of their day was disintegrating. It was treating the poor harshly and seemed oblivious to the troubles and concerns of the people.
Isaiah, inspired by God, looked ahead to a different time, a time when God would send a Messiah, a saviour. He spoke these words:
“There will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Hundreds of years later those who witnessed the birth and life of Jesus realised that those words had spoken of him, that Jesus was the light coming into the darkness.
We may look around our world and despair. Despair maybe at the wars being fought and the innocent people being killed. Despair at the lack of progress in addressing climate change and the environmental situation. Despair at governments around the world who fail to govern with integrity and justice. Despair at our health service or social care provision struggling to keep up with demands.
But Advent is a time of hope, when we acknowledge things are difficult, just like Isaiah did, but we know that Christ has come into our world to bring light.
Indeed, later on, Isaiah is to say these words:
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”
A time will come when there will be no more darkness, no more fear, when goodness and love will no longer be hidden.
At Advent we look forward to that wonderful day, when Christ returns to bring light to the whole world.