The light of the presence of God, who comes among us in Jesus, is not going to be put out or extinguished by the circumstances of the world explains Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines in his Christmas message to the Diocese of Leeds.
In a video found below, Bishop Nick shares a timely reflection, wishing everyone a happy Christmas and God's blessing in the new year:
“’The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.’ That's what Isaiah wrote nearly 3,000 years ago to a people who were in exile.
These are people who have lost or are going to lose everything that speaks to them of meaning, of what the world is about, of where God is, and they find themselves eventually on the banks of their conquerors river in Babylon while they're being mocked and laughed at.
How can you worship this God who you say is the creator and the lover and sustainer of the cosmos when our tribal deity has defeated him? Why are you here? So every day you wake up and the evidence of your eyes and your ears tells you, you have been defeated and that God has abandoned you.
Yet writes Isaiah, “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” In other words, they're drawn by this promise that will not be extinguished by the circumstances of their lives. They can't be beaten down in the end because they're drawn by a light that comes to them from the future and it won't let them go.
Now you have to use your imagination as to what that would have been like being one of those people in exile but I think we've experienced a bit of exile over the last couple of years with the pandemic. Probably everyone among us has known someone who is sick, who have had covid or even died of covid, amongst other things. The usual run of life. And we might ask well in this world of uncertainty, where we feel we're being mocked or laughed at in exile by this virus, what do we have to say?
Well the Christian message is that God opts into the world that is precisely like this, a world of uncertainty. A world in Bethlehem in the Middle East two thousand years ago where disease is rife, where there's no guarantee in the vulnerability of a baby that he would see out the week. And yet this is how God opts to come in among us as one of us and says therefore, that whatever the darkness, the light of the presence of God comes in and cannot be extinguished.
Christmas says that we are mortal human beings living in a contingent world and the God who loves us, sustains us, redeems us also in the resurrection of Jesus comes to us and says the uncertainty, the death, the illness, the sickness, these do not have the final word in this world. Whatever the darkness might be, and we all experience some of it at some point. The light is the presence of God that cannot be put out.
So I hope that as we celebrate this Christmas and certainly as I celebrate it, hopefully with my family, we will be celebrating this fact, that the light of the presence of God who comes among us in Jesus is not going to be put out or extinguished by the circumstances of the world. Even if things get black and rough and terrible, well God is still there. The future is in his hands and we think not in terms of just now but of eternity.
So in wishing you a happy Christmas I hope that you will be grasped in your imagination, your heart, your spirit by this vision of God's coming among us for our sake. Of swapping the wood of the manger for the wood of a cross and then demonstrating that even death does not have the final word. God does and its resurrection.
So I wish you a very happy Christmas and God's blessing in the new year.”