One of my favourite carols begins ‘O little town of Bethlehem how still we see the lie / above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by / yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light / the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.’.
I thought of this carol a few days ago when I saw a picture of a young baby held by a white helmeted rescuer in the rubble strewn streets of Aleppo. We have all seen horrific images of Aleppo and can only begin to imagine how ‘dark’ the streets must be for those who call Aleppo home. Yet in the picture of that war torn city I saw a baby (a potent symbol of hope for the future) held by a rescuer (a white helmet ‘shining’ in the darkness).
In many ways that picture encapsulated the Christmas story as much as any stable scene with Mary, Joseph, ox and ass. The Christmas story tells us about the world as it often is, a place of suffering, oppression, tyranny, fear – darkness. But God so loved that world (our world) that he gave us the gift of his son, Jesus – a baby who brought hope to a dark world and still brings hope today. In the darkness this gift of love shines out. It is the light of hope, the light of love and the darkness will not extinguish this light. This is why our principal celebration of Christmas is the Midnight Mass. In the darkness of night, the church is ablaze with light, as we sing ‘the hope and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight’.
May you have a peaceful Christmas and a happy new year.