Sunday, December 21, 2008

Homily for the Annual Carol Service

A light that shines in the dark (John 1:5)

Earlier this year I celebrated a milestone birthday. I won’t say which one … but though I’m a way off the state pension yet, life began again for me quite a few years ago. And I now think, yes, I am getting old.

But as we all know, especially at this time of year, the only difference between a man and a boy is how expensive are his toys, and I am pleased to say that I got an expensive but wonderful toy for my birthday - a Camera!

Now when you get into photography in a way that is a bit more serious than just snapping at family occasions, you start to look at things a bit differently. A building, a tree, a sky takes on a different aspect. You start to notice things you might have taken for granted. You see patterns and echoes. You notice expressions. You identify relationships between objects. You begin to open your eyes - open your eyes and see what was always there, but which you hardly noticed.

And you realise the importance of light. An underexposed photo is dark and without distinction. With the wrong light detail is lost, definition is poor. Flash can be harsh - and show us more than we want. What we think we see with our eyes might not be what we get in the picture, if we get the Light just a little wrong.

So when we call Jesus the Light of the World, we are not just using a pretty symbol. When we decorate the Church with candles we are not just trying to create atmosphere. Light can overpower darkness, but darknesss can never overpower light. Light reveals beauty and truth. Light shows every detail, but can also forgive imperfection and flaw. Light can uncover reality, and can display the charm and the grace and the splendour which might otherwise be hidden.

In the book of Genesis, in the story of creation, we are told that one of God’s first acts is to separate Light and Darkness. In this Gospel we have just heard that Light, the true light, the light that enlightens all people, comes to live amongst us.

He is the Light who leads us through the shadowy path of life, who shows us our sins and our failings, but who also brings hope in our darkness.

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