Advent Reflections 2023: Day 12

Psalm 27:1-5, 13-14

It was Christmas 1996, our son was about eighteen months old. We put up a Christmas tree while he was having a nap. When he toddled into the living room and saw the lights, his face lit up in wonder. What was this glow, this brilliance which transformed a dull December afternoon? That memory of delight and amazement helps me make sense of this psalm. The opening words are more than a statement. They acclaim the life-changing wonder of God’s presence and acknowledge it as a sign of God’s protection, which keeps us safe in the face of a host of troubles.

The image of God as light goes back to the Genesis stories of creation, where God’s word is the source of light, and takes us forward to Jesus, who said ‘I am the light of the world’. God’s presence transforms life’s difficulties and enables us to live with confidence, recognising the beauty of God all around us. And yet we cannot ignore the presence of darkness and trouble. This Christmas, the war-torn people of Gaza face unimaginable suffering as fighting rages on. How can they hear this promise of light in the darkness? Are these in any way words in which they could possibly find hope?

We don’t know what troubles the author of the psalm faced, but we do know that Jesus lived at a hard time. The Romans could be as violent as any army today, and people faced hunger, illness and often early death. It’s easy to see why the psalmist might have felt besieged.

Light is for sharing. Light one candle from another: it takes nothing from the light of the first. If we are fortunate to see flickers of light or glimmers of hope this Christmas, we need to share that with those in darkness: through practical support if we can and always with prayers longing for change and justice, that Jesus, light of the world, may come.

Caroline Wickens

God of light and love, we hold before you people enduring darkness, fear, danger and distress. We pray that your light may find its way into their darkness, through the care we share with one another and through the power of your love for us, made real in Jesus Christ.