'the deepest darkness is the place where God comes to us. In the womb, in the night, in the dreaming; when we are lost, when our world has come undone, when we cannot see the next step on the path; in all the darkness that attends our life, whether hopeful darkness or horrendous, God meets us. God’s first priority is not to do away with the dark but to be present to us in it. I will give you the treasures of darkness, God says in Isaiah 45:3, and riches hidden in secret places. For the Christ who was born two millennia ago, for the Christ who seeks to be born in us this day, the darkness is where incarnation begins'...
As an early Christmas present this year one of my spiritual directees, knowing my love of candles, gave me a delightful gift - a candle care kit. It consists of two instruments, a special pair of scissors, capable of trimming a candle wick to the optimum height for long burning, and a re-fillable gas lighter, specifically designed to train the flame downwards for successful lighting. It struck me as a wonderful metaphor for God's action in us. Each of us is, as it were, a candle carrying the light of God into the world. For that candle flame to burn brightly and effectively, we need to have our wicks trimmed, the flame lit, and the fuel replenished from the source.
We all know what happens if the wick of a candle is not trimmed - the smokey flame deposits soot everywhere, the beauty of the light is diminished and eventually drowned in the wax. Yet as God's candles, God's lights in the world, we cannot trim our own wicks - that is a task for God alone - though it would be a sweet fancy to think of God sending out the myriads of angels each night to trim us all while we sleep! The only thing we can do is to allow ourselves to be trimmed. That means being still enough and present enough on a regular basis for God to be able to work in us and trim that wick within us.
Now I don't know what it is like in your household around this time of year, but I know that in many households including my own, things can sometimes get a little ragged. We get caught up in all kinds of stress and strain, or simple over busyness, and before we know it we are generating a great deal more heat than light. Yet tonight we are here. We have come tonight in the midst of it all, in the darkness, to be still, to be silent, to be with God and allow God to trim the wick of our life and ignite in us the light of peace and hope and love once more.
So even as you sit here now, I invite you to pause; to take a deep breath in; to take a slow breath out; and to be aware if only for an instant of God at work within you- trimming away the things you no longer need, taking form as light within you and re-kindling the fire. Here in the darkness of our world and lives Christ comes to us and lights us up from within.
Light has extraordinary properties. It travels through skin and bone to the very fibre of our being. The energy from natural sunlight passes through the skin to influence our very blood, restoring life to damaged cells. Light and life are inseparable companions. The light of Christ streams out from us into the broken and damaged places of our world, bringing healing and restitution. For when we reconnect with that light, fresh life springs up within us, both physically and spiritually.
Christ is born this and every night, not just for us, but in us and through us. God in Christ takes the incomparable risk of placing the inexhaustible light in fragile, human flesh. This is the wonder of this night, as we remember once more the love and trust God places in us, not just in spite of our darkness, but precisely in and through that darkness. As Fr. Richard Rohr puts it, this is 'the narrow birth canal of God into the world—through the darkness and into an ever-greater Light, but a light that we carry with us and in us.'
So this Christmas, no matter what darkness surrounds or fills you, may you experience that darkness as the womb of light and life, and may you be filled with wonder that God in Christ takes flesh in you and in me, bringing light and life to the world. Amen.
by Penny Jones, Christmas 2015