Canon Roy Arnold
The other night when I couldn’t get off to sleep, I went downstairs to make myself a hot drink. I sat to sip it (without the light on) by the window when I noticed – to my surprise – a sinister black plant on the window ledge. I recognised it after a moment or two, as the crimson Poinsettia we had at Christmas. In the dark its bright red petal-leaves had taken on the blackness of the night.
Well last week was a pretty dark one I think – despite the brightness of the weather – with the terrible news of the young Jordanian pilot put to death, and the ongoing story of apathy in the face of the abuse of children and young women at Rotherham in South Yorkshire. Obviously sometimes we seem to take too much notice of breaking news from far away, while failing to recognise good news from around the corner, but there are occasions when the darkness can enter our own lives and homes when death or serious illness comes calling.
But our Gospel for today (from John ch 1) reminds us of the light which shines in all our darknesses, which light is Jesus, and which the darkness failed to overcome. In that reading from St John’s Gospel (which we normally hear at Christmas), the light from the infant Jesus seems like a little lantern in the dark corner of the stable at Bethlehem. But a light which grew as Jesus became a man, and shone out in his teaching and his gifts of healing, and finally in the expression of his love on the Cross, and three days later his gift of New Life for us all in his Resurrection.
In the Season of Lent – now almost upon us – we shall hope to prepare ourselves for Passiontide and Easter and maybe learn that the darkness of our world is down – not to a cruel and capricious God – but to the darkness which is within ourselves when we fail to see and follow the Wisdom and the Love of God. The Wisdom which is calling out to all of us as we heard in our first reading from Proverbs. But our Gospel for today told us that when Jesus came to live among us, his own people – the Jews – failed to recognise him because their minds preferred the darkness to the light. Like the fanatic Muslims and the young pilot they so brutally killed and like the Nazis whom we remembered last week who killed six million Jewish people – their minds darkened by thoughts of revenge or totally misguided ideologies and motives.
We are told in the New Testament of how Jesus came to Jerusalem for the last time, when he looked out over the city (knowing the terrible fate of the city and most of its people). We are told in just two poignant words: “Jesus wept”. He often must weep still at the thought of how the heart of humanity (which of course includes me and you) can so easily let the darkness overcome us, either by apathy, despair or downright evil.
All the more reason that we must try and try to follow this man called Jesus, who is the image of the invisible God and who came to be that light for all people. And who (even when his own people and we all rejected him) faced up to his death on the cross and said “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”; then went on to bring us out into the light of Everlasting Life.
I was long asleep (I guess) when the dawn broke and the Crimson returned to the Poinsettia flowers and Christ’s glory filled the skies. Christ the true, the only light. And the Sun of righteousness triumphed o’er the shades of night.
Proverbs 8: 1, 22-31
Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth – when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil. When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.
John 1: 1-14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 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. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.