I have a vivid memory of walking through a disused railway tunnel at the age of twelve, with the reassuring presence of my father beside me in the gloomy darkness. The tunnel to me seemed extremely long, as our bootsteps crunched on the gravel and splashed in little pools of water here and there, with drips coming from the neglected Victorian brickwork above. All I could focus on, to quell my rising panic, was a tiny circle, almost a pinprick, of light at the end of the tunnel. Imagine my joy and relief when we finally came out in the bright daylight again, with trees all around in leaf.
This particular experience, powerfully remembered, compares with the fear of Covid during the first lockdown of 2020, and the importance of holding on in faith; even though the hope of a solution to the pandemic seemed to be tiny and faint, like the pinprick at the end of the tunnel – until the discovery of the latest vaccine just before Christmas.
Light in the darkness is so vitally important. The Gospel of John chapter 1 verses 4-5 says:
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it”.
The word “overcome” is a translation of the Latin word comprehendere, in the sense of to grasp or seize. The light is stronger than the darkness which surrounds it so completely, but cannot extinguish it.
Christmas, to me, represents candlelight, music, warmth and fellowship. These were the first four words I wrote down on a piece of paper.
Take these away, and what is left?
We are left with their diametric opposites: darkness, silence, coldness and loneliness. Just like in that railway tunnel. No wonder I wished to escape as soon as possible and reach the light.
We all need the light. We all need music, warmth and fellowship, on a spiritual level as well as physical. This Christmas, let’s try to stay close to the true light. “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world”. (John 1:9 NRSV)