A LITTLE light makes a BIG difference
Today is the 21st December, officially the shortest day of the year. Or, one of the longest, if you are frantically trying to sort Christmas chores and get yourself into something resembling order before the Christmas season truly starts!
However, on the day when we see the least daylight all year, it is an interesting moment to ponder the Christmas story and the themes of dark and light within it.
Have you ever played rock paper scissors? Go on, why not grab someone right now and play a few rounds?! This game works on the principle that there are simple rules that ALWAYS apply - rock ALWAYS beats scissors, paper ALWAYS beats rock, scissors ALWAYS beat paper.
In a way, the Christmas story is when God plays a massive game of rock paper scissors - but with just one rule of HUGE significance to all of us and to all time. And the rule is this - LIGHT ALWAYS BEATS DARKNESS.
We forget when we choose our Christmas cards, or attend twinkly lit nativity services what a dark time it was when Jesus came. God’s people were in a terrible situation, invaded and ruled by Rome. They had not heard directly from God for 400 years - total silence. Generation after generation had past since those who knew of a prophet hearing directly from God. Many would have lost faith in the ancient stories - questioned whether this God was even real. Others thought God had abandoned his people - or simply didn’t care any more what happened to them.
“God is light. In Him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5 NIV
And yet into this darkness, God did send light. In coming down to the earth, God brought his light - ultimate light - into the darkness. But He did it in a very unexpected way - not sending a carrier or great fighter - no one impressive or powerful. Instead God chose to come as a baby - tiny, helpless, weak and dependent.
And in this amazing, unexpected move, God teaches us something utterly important about the way light defeats darkness. Because it doesn’t NEED a big light to bring off a big chance. A LITTLE light makes a BIG difference.
Think about it - if you are in a totally dark room, even lighting a tiny nightlight totally transforms things - because you are no longer in the dark. It may be small - but it defeats the dark - because darkness is the absence of light - so ANY light defeats it. Jesus presence in the world was the beginning of a MASSIVE change - because the mere presence of light in the world transformed everything - even though he was tiny and weak.
But what does this mean to US at this time of year - particularly if we are struggling ourselves with our emotions and feelings - or if we are supporting others struggling?
It is easy to feel overwhelmed by darkness. The weight of difficult situations, and the emotions and feelings that accompany them can feel immense and almost suffocating. Things from your past - mistakes you have made, things said or done, decisions that you can’t undo - all these things can feel like they have a power over you, a darkness that you cannot escape. But the trick of the darkness is to make it feel that it has a power it doesn’t actually have. Because even a tiny bit of light is stronger. It just is - think about it, you cannot have a beam of darkness. The minute we bring ANY light, the darkness cannot fight it.
What this means is we have to change our understanding of what is needed to bring change. Because the darkness can feel so heavy that we think a massive light would be needed - but that is how it deceives us and stops us discovering the truth - that actually a little light would make a big difference.
“Though I sit in darkness, the Lord is a light for me.” Micah 7:8 NIV
Be encouraged by that truth this Christmas - if you are struggling with darkness, it doesn’t need much light to make a difference. Maybe there is a little step you can take, to bring a bit of light. Listen to a favourite song or chorus, get out something that reminds you of friends, take a moment to care for yourself and do something nice for yourself, speak a little prayer for yourself and light a candle, go out for a walk in the fresh air - these are small things, but it doesn’t need much light to defy and defeat that darkness. John 1:5 reminds us that light shines IN DARKNESS - the presence of darkness isn’t a problem for light. In face it tells us that the darkness cannot overcome light - I love the translation of this which says darkness cannot smother the light. It doesn’t matter how heavy or overwhelming your darkness feels this Christmas - a tiny light can hold its own against it.
And what if you are supporting someone this year who is finding things hard? Again we can feel that to make a difference we’d have to somehow transform the situation, or have magical words to bring, or somehow bring about a miracle. And often because we know we can’t do those things, we end up doing … nothing. But the reality is that a little light can make a big difference. So little things we could do that might bring that tiny light to someone’s day WOULD make a big difference - because when that light is there the darkness cannot overcome it.
“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts” 2 Cor 4:6 NIV
As people of faith we have the enormous privilege of carrying light - hope, joy, love and the good things of God to the people we connect with. how could you bring a tiny bit of light to the people you care for this year? It needn’t be a big gesture. The smallest thing - a text, little note or gift, an invitation for a coffee or just letting someone know you have noticed how hard they are finding things and are praying - could make much more different than you realise.
So this year in whatever we face, and especially in moments when you might feel weak or helpless, remember that tiny baby - and the difference he made. And remember - a little light makes a big difference.