In 1951, I was told many years ago, for my first birthday I was given a set of what were then called Fairy Lights, for the Christmas tree. I grew up with these lovely things and enjoyed them well into my teens – what happened to them, I don’t really know. They were larger than modern lights, spherical, in delicate colours and they cast a beautiful soft light through the fragrant greenery of the tree – every Christmas I see them in my mind’s eye and wish I still had them. I’ve never been able to find anything remotely like them. Their memory is important to me, they are iconic, really, of Christmas past for me, iconic of a very special and precious kind of light.
But not just of Christmas past. I wonder if you share with me a sense of an ever-darkening world, of really dark things happening at home and abroad. The darkness of fear – fear for the future, fear of the other, fear of sudden terror and murderous violence, fear of what may still be revealed of abuse at all levels of our society – all of these and many more dark things, gather around us and in us and stalk our world, God’s world. So that when at Christmas we hear again the words of St John proclaiming Christ as the light that the darkness can never overcome – the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it (1.5) – we are challenged once more to hold fast to the hope that in the end the light will have it, the light will have it.
But not simply at the end – now as well. The light has some of it now, too. Not all is dark and not all is bad news, not at all. People still seek what is just and true and beautiful, people still reach out across barriers of hatred and fear, people still do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with their God. People of many faiths and people of none. But some of them do all these things for they know the Light that shines in the darkness and they love that Light above all else and all others. And they hope, even know, that the Light will have it in the end and is having it now in their struggles and commitments. And the Light will draw all other lights to Himself. Christmas is, above all, their time, their celebration.
Very Rev Dr Gregor Duncan, Bishop of Glasgow & Galloway