Three years ago, I wrote two articles for the Hambledon village magazine with the title “Certainty in an uncertain World” which focused on how faith in Jesus Christ can give us certainty in difficult and confusing times, living as we were at that time through the turmoil of the Brexit vote and its aftermath. We could not have imagined then, that the confusion of 2017 would be multiplied many times over just 3 years later, caused by the ravages of a global pandemic. With certainty we can say that we do now indeed live in uncertain times.
As a worshipping fellowship at the Hambledon chapel we give thanks amidst the confusion around us that we have a rock of certainty in our lives: the knowledge of the truth of the risen, living Lord Jesus Christ. And we rejoice that we have been able to continue our pattern of worship and meetings almost unchanged throughout the past 9 months but meeting on-line, rather than physically in the chapel. Of course, it is not the same experience as being together in a body, but it has enabled us to expand our reach so that others, physically distant, even overseas, have been able to join us. As we approach the season of Christmas and the New Year, we are confident that we shall be able to remain in fellowship one with another and with the Lord whether in the chapel or through the wonders of modern technology.
The Light of the World
There has been much talk in the press over recent weeks and months that Christmas this year would be cancelled. Well I suppose it depends on what we understand by Christmas; if we mean a christmas with a small c that is only about revelry, partying and exchanging of presents, then maybe the opportunities for this may well be decreased this year. However, if we mean Christmas as the celebration of Christ incarnate, of Christ coming into this world as a helpless baby, as the Light of the World, to be our Lord and Saviour, then there is every reason to believe that our joy in Christmas should be increased and certainly not in any way diminishedthis year!
There is a famous painting by the Pre-Raphaelite artist, Holman Hunt, titled “Light of the World” which depicts Christ standing by a closed door holding a lantern, with His right hand raised to knock at the door. The painting contains 2 references to Jesus, the first is from John 12: 12 where He tells the assembled people, “I am the light of the world.Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” And in the letter to the church at Laodicea Jesus declares, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.” (Revelation 3: 20). In many ways this painting stands as a metaphor for Christmas.
At all times, but at this time of year in particular, Christ does indeed stand at the door of our hearts and knock, asking to come in. He is the Light of the World and He wants to illuminate us with His love. Almost the first words of John’s gospel tell us that “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world” (at Jesus’s incarnation) (John 1: 9). And the core Christian message of the Light of the World coming into the world is summed up in the words recorded by John later in his gospel: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3: 16).
At this season of Christmas, it is this message of simple redemption that we should be celebrating. God loves each one of us so much that He was willing to send His Son into a cruel and unbelieving world so that every man and woman throughout history might have the opportunity to receive the incredible gift of eternal life. The difficulty we have is that this Christmas story, consisting of a wonderful word of love and redemption, has become distorted so that we focus not on the Christ child at the centre but on the ephemera that have grown up around it over the years. The world has taken that account of God’s wonderful gift to mankind and turned it into a sort of fairy story replete with stable, innkeeper, donkey, lowing oxen, (none of which are referred to in the bible).
Earlier in the letter to the Laodicean church, Jesus tells them that “You are neither cold nor hot…because you are lukewarm…..You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’” (Revelation 3: 16 – 17). And these words reflect in many ways where we stand today in a largely secular country and age where so much of our worship is lukewarm and unenthusiastic and where Christmas has become a celebration of excess. Yet the eternal message stands: Jesus is truly the Light of the World. He is our beacon of love, stability and hope in these difficult times. At Christmas, in particular, and even in a country that has largely turned its backs on Him, He does indeed knock and ask to be let into our lives.
We at Hambledon Chapel wish you all a joyous Christmas and blessed New Year and pray that you will allow Christ knocking at your door to enter into your hearts.