During December, people across the Diocese arereflecting on what Advent and Christmas mean to them. Here, Rev Mat Ineson, Vicar of St Mary Magdalene in Stoke Bishop, reflects on the meaning of light for the Christian faith.
I'm constantly amazed at the natural world, which is why science fascinates me. At the moment Im reading a book on quantum mechanics and even understanding some of it. The last science book I read was about theories involving light. I bored my family with interesting insights from it.
When you think about it, light is amazing. Im told that on a clear night a single candle can be seen from two miles away. The light of a small torch can help us see where we are going in the dark. Light can bring comfort and a sense of security in a dark place, as any child with a night light will tell you. The light of the stars on a crisp, clear night is a wonder to behold. Light is beautiful; it pierces and overcomes darkness.
Light is a common metaphor in the Christian faith. At Christmas churches will hear the reading from the beginning of Johns gospel where Jesus is described as a light shining in the darkness. But what does that mean?
At times the world can seem a dark place. We only have to watch our televisions, read a newspaper or check the news on our mobile devices to know there are dark places around the world. But what about our own lives? Sometimes facing struggles at work, illness or the ache of loneliness can make things feel dark. Perhaps we sometimes long for light, even a glimmer of it.
Christmas celebrates the arrival of Jesus into the world. In many ways Jesus was a baby like any other baby, reliant on his parents for survival, communicating through crying, needing to learn to walk and to talk. And the world into which he came is the same world as the one we inhabit, including the dark places. I suspect the toddler Jesus fell and grazed his knee like any other child - and cried about it. And as he grew older he became aware of the darkness of illness, loneliness and deep pain. Jesus experienced the world in all its beauty and joy, challenges and pain. Like us, he knew the dark places.
So in what sense is Jesus light? Jesus was not an ordinary baby. Christians, including myself, believe that Jesus is the son of God. Whilst he chose to experience the darkness we experience in the way we experience it, he also showed us how to live as God originally intended. He was light within the darkness. The way he taught, the way he showed compassion and love to others, the way he behaved brought light and hope into peoples dark experiences. And when he grew up and died on the cross, and rose again, he defeated death and brought the light of eternity into human experience. The darkness tried to overcome the light - it could not.
Jesus is light because he shines a light on God's character and leads us as we travel through the dark places. The light still shines and we can know him.
Christmas is wonderful because it reminds us that God chose to step into the darkness to bring light in the reality of life. This is what we celebrate. This is what Christmas means to me.
Rev Mat Ineson
Vicar, St Mary Magdalene, Stoke Bishop, Bristol