This Christmas I felt very conflicted. On the one hand there were the usual encouragements to “ho-ho-ho”; to rejoice because Jesus had come. I preached a number of Christmas sermons, including one on John 1:1–18 and reminded one and all that the light that brought life had come.
Yet, every day, there are numerous reminders that there is so much darkness in the world. How can anyone fully comprehend the number dying in Gaza daily? And Ukraine is no longer in the limelight but the fight against the Russian invasion continues. Then there is the continuous bleeding in places like Myanmar. What about the 700 million or so who are chronically hungry around the world? And we must not forget the many who do not know God; who live and die without hope. It doesn’t help if you live in places like Singapore where we do not experience such pain directly. But how can we in good conscience celebrate Christmas and not connect our hope to those who need it most? For some of us, pain is not something far away. Some of us are hurting because we have lost loved ones, or we are undergoing our own experience of brokenness. How then can we rejoice and ignore the absence of joy in so many places?
The light has indeed come. God has entered human history to make things right. Some of us have been recipients and beneficiaries of this light. We should be grateful and rejoice. But as recipients, we are also stewards of the light.
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14–16 NIV)
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.
(Philippians 2:14–16a NIV)
The call to thank God for the light must come with a call to shine for Christ.
Last Saturday we were part of a church’s outreach to the surrounding community. I saw an elderly lady in a wheelchair and struck up a conversation with her. I found out she was 95 years old. I asked her if she had had something to eat. She opened her mouth to show me she had few teeth left. She would keep food in her mouth till it was soft enough for her to swallow. The music around us was loud, so I asked her if she was disturbed by it. She smiled and said “no”. In fact, she said, the music made her want to joget (a lively Malay dance). I laughed and did the only two joget moves I knew. Seated, she began to move in her wheelchair. She must have been a great dancer in her day. She told me that she lived alone and one day she had fallen. That was when she was asked to stay in the nursing facility that the church partners with. Quietly I prayed that she had experienced a little light that morning. My heart broke when I realised how little it was and how much more light she deserves. There are also many, many more who need to know that they are seen and that they are valued; that God loves them.
So, as we move from Christmas to the New Year, resolve to be not just recipients of the light. Let us recommit ourselves to be also bearers of the light. Some of us may be called to mobilise many to be light-bearers. But all of us can strike up a chat with one lonely person.