Christmas lights.1.hope

I love Christmas lights. They always have a welcoming warming glow for me, especially at night. They don’t give anywhere near the effect of glowing inner warmth in the daylight; they don’t compete very well with the brightness of summer daylight – do they? Franklin Street isn’t a lot of fun in broad daylight. However the glow of lights in the window of a house on a dark summer night as you drive or walk the streets of our neighbourhoods communicate something of the joy and, perhaps even more, of the hope of God-with-us at Christmas.
In the horror of exile from all they trusted, all the people of God had left was hope in a light that would overwhelm all that constituted darkness for them. The promises and comfort of prophecy was their sustenance. (Isaiah 9) What they couldn’t know was that the promise and their hope was to be realised in a person that we’ve come to know as the Light of the world. (John 8.12) This was also true of the  nation that languished under the oppression of Roman occupation.
Their hope was that a movement or a person would come who would restore the glory of Israel and usher in an era of unceasing world dominance as God ruled all the Earth in and through them as the chosen nation of God. All the burdens that held them down, all the yokes that forced them into slavery would be lifted from them and their enemies would be disarmed and destroyed. It would be a time of great celebration and joy.
Even Zechariah (Luke 1) has this in mind as he hears the improbable words of the angel and finds it utterly beyond his grasp that he would have a son at all let alone one who would be so pivotal to Israel’s hope. People will turn to God and to each other – an era of people relating as God would have them will flood the nation – his ministry will be characterised by the living presence of God in his Spirit. The angel’s words to him were like a light of hope that would burn in his doubting heart until the birth of his promised son.
What is the hope in us that will ignite and sustain our faith through even difficult times?
Turning on our collective light in the darkness that confronts so many of our fellow-citizens and neighbours is what this season of God appearing in the flesh is all about. Although we proclaim Jesus as the light that has come to lighten our darkness, He also affirms that we are the light of the world (Matthew 5) and here is our clue to offering hope to the world that is our everyday environment.
Our link to (our relationship with) God and our consequent link with other believers is a sign of hope for our fellow humans imprisoned in the dark of sin and alienation from God. That assumes our connection with the Light of the world, and a live connection with each other. Just as Christmas lights need to plugged into the power source and have a live connection along the string. But we also need to take the light to the places where it shows up best and makes a difference of dark enshrouded lives. To whom can you communicate the nature of the love and acceptance of God and the extraordinary future that goes with them.
Consider those in your immediate vicinity who need someone to turn on the light of hope for them. At this celebratory time of the year people are often open to hospitality and to spontaneous acts of kindness and gifts of seasonal baking; let these become a way of opening doors; invite them into your homes, your fellowship groups, your lives – one of the oldest form of evangelism is hospitality as a demonstration of the warm acceptance and love of God.
What burdens are your neighbours carrying? Do you know? How could you help or encourage them? What could God’s word be to them should the opportunity to say anything arise? When you look at the houses in your street what do you see? What does your prayer for them tell you of their need for the light that came at Christmas?

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