St Bride's: Sermons

Light in Darkness

©2002 Dr Charles Tait. Reproduced with kind permission
Sunset illuminates the passage of Maeshowe
One of my favourite parts of Britain is a small group of Islands at the northernmost tip of Scotland - the Orkneys - where for many years we went for family holidays. They are peaceful and starkly beautiful islands, littered with monuments from the Stone Age to the present day. One of the most impressive is Maeshowe, a burial mound built about five thousand years ago. It consists of a central chamber approached by a narrow passage. The remarkable thing about this tomb is that it is so positioned that on Midwinter's day the setting sun shines down the passage and lights up the inner chamber with its rays for about fifteen minutes, something it will not do again until the same day the following year. It is as if those ancient people in the far north where the sun hardly shines during the winter months were saying: "despite the darkness and the misery which exist all around us, we are not abandoned; there is light in the deepest recesses of our lives, even in death." Those ancients were men of hope, and Maeshowe is a monument to that hope.

Today there is another kind of darkness haunting the world - the fear of international terrorism and the dark shadow of war. In the face of such darkness Christians need to renew our hope in Christ and to offer something of our vision to a troubled world.

Just as those ancient people in the Orkney Islands saw the light dawn with drama after the longest night of the year, so at Christmas we celebrate the Light of the world come amongst us, when all seems dark around us. St John pictures Christ as light illuminating the whole world -

"The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it."

Jesus helps us to see. We begin to see ourselves and other people as they really are, and not through the eyes of our distorted prejudices. We begin to see the world and its needs with a new awareness that to serve others is to serve Jesus himself. And because Jesus shared our condition to the full, we also see that our difficulties are not forgotten by God, but that they can become a means of reaching out to him in hope.

Our vision is that as we ourselves become channels of the light of Christ, so God's glory will be seen and the darkness will begin to be dispelled. As we prepare for the great Christmas festival and look beyond it to a new year ahead, may that vision sustain us and offer us new opportunities for Christ's light to shine out through us in the midst of a troubled world.

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