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Christmas Illuminations: The Light Has Come

‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).

MATTHEW 1:23

God with us – you’re kidding me! Where was he when I lost my job this year? Where was he when I was home alone for nine months? Where was he when my dad died without his family at his bedside? “Immanuel – God with us”? You can take that Christmas card and put it straight in the bin.’

I wonder whether Mary felt like binning the angel’s message when she and Joseph had to flee to Egypt? Whether she asked, ‘Where is God? Why is all this happening?’ The Christmas story gets dark quickly, but Matthew wants to show us that God has come to us in person to bring light into our darkness.

Like the myth of Santa (sorry!), many have added myths to the story of Jesus – that he has come to fulfil all our dreams and ambitions, that he has come to help me find a parking space in Sainsbury’s on Christmas Eve – but Matthew gives us a very practical, pastoral message about the presence of God in the darkest of times.

I discovered that God was with me in the dingy darkness of a Clacton nightclub when I was way down the wrong path, and he lit up my mind with a question: ‘Where is your life going?’

Claire found that God was with her in the lonely darkness of her bedroom as she wrestled again with how to make herself sick, and his presence shone a light of hope that life could be different.

Tony met Jesus in his locked prison cell, serving time for his 98th conviction, and suddenly a new purpose began to shine in his life.

Every part of Jesus’ life was marked by the disappointment of human experience – poverty, loss, temptation, betrayal, and death. And yet he touched those who others would avoid, he drew close when others turned away, and he ate with those who others rejected.

Immanuel’s presence illuminates a new way for us to view everything, including our dark times. We may end this year feeling that darkness has dominated, but the Christmas story radiates the greater truth: that his light has come into our darkness so that we can truly know and say, ‘Immanuel – God is with us’.

Steve Rouse 
Church Team Director, LICC