December 2021

“You are the light of the world” Matthew 5.14 (NSRV)

I have always used a candle during silent prayer.  As a cerebral ‘butterfly’, its flame reminds me to come back to God in the present moment.  It enables me to keep trying to let go of external stress and simply sit with Him: which is all, and gloriously everything, that silent prayer is.  In recent weeks, during the worst of the pandemic, I have also left a candle lit in the house all the time.  It is in the night, or first thing in the morning, I find, when I look down just in passing, that I am most comforted by its presence.    

Yet the candle itself – a plastic tea light – is tiny.  That little deeds are infinitely powerful, infinitely precious, is one of the things that motivated Amnesty International, a group that knows much about worldly horror, to choose the slogan, ‘It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness’.  The certainty of light’s comfort is also what Jesus affirms in John 12.44-50: “I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness”.

Yet in Matthew 5, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is actually talking about us, not himself.  He suggests that it is by our deeds, not our words, that we shall be known as God’s.  This is no admonishment.  He gives us permission here, to be ourselves: “let your light shine before others, that they may … glorify your Father in heaven”.  Pessimism is as contagious as any virus.  So is seeking to apportion blame.  This saying reminds us that we can choose to proclaim the joy of love, independently of our circumstances.  Nelson Mandela, who knew more than most about the impact of incarceration and its potential for hopelessness, was instead one of hope’s biggest advocates.  His inaugural address gifted us with this question:  ‘We ask ourselves, “who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?” … Actually, who are you not to be?  You are a child of God … We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.  It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone’. 

May you be the light of Christ’s world and His glory, as it is made anew this Christmas, and always.