There’s something fascinating and overwhelming about the dark at this time of year. It’s still pitch black at seven when the alarm goes off and by the time I hear my daughter’s key in the door the daylight has already begun to drain away. Day after day there’s a bit less light and a little more darkness. It can feel like the darkness is winning. But then, even as we are drawing towards the shortest day of the year, something beautiful happens. People begin to rebel against the coming darkness… and drape their streets and homes with tiny lights. Suddenly thousands of fairy lights twinkle through trees and across living room windows, all declaring that, against all evidence to the contrary, this is the time to celebrate – light is breaking in!
It certainly makes me think about how you and I are called by God to shine out like stars in the sky. Boldly resisting the oncoming darkness we can each choose to live in a way that allows a pinprick of God’s own light to break through into the world.
It’s also a picture of how we need each other. One or two fairy lights don’t make a huge impact by themselves, but joined together in an orchestrated rebellion against the darkness? There’s something so captivating about that picture – Hundreds of thousands of tiny little twinkling lights in a sea of darkness, defiantly holding out the truth that the light has come, and the darkness has not overcome it.
As I’ve been contemplating this picture of fairy lights in a row, all connected to one another, I remembered our annual childhood ritual of checking every bulb in the string before we put them up. Back then fairy lights were wired in series, individual lights that were interdependent, part of a greater whole. Every last one had to be in working order and in place for them to light up, and there seemed to be a lot of time spent around our plastic seventies tree trying to work out which coloured bulb had slipped out of place or needed attention.
Of course the analogy doesn’t entirely hold up. Sadly in many of our churches one or two or maybe many of us can slip out of place or get broken and no-one will notice until it’s too late. So for me at least, this picture is a challenge to check on and check-in with my neighbours – the brothers and sisters in Christ that God has chosen to put me near. Sometimes people need a bit of time to talk, to know that someone cares about what they’re going through, to know that someone has got their back. Sometimes they need some help in getting some restoration in their relationship with God. I have no doubt that being open about our own struggles and helping others by knowing and loving them well enough to hold them accountable is the only way we can be pure enough to shine out.
We’re in this together friends. Let’s be a twinkling, joined-up, rebellion against the darkness.
The light will always win.