By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Friday 25 December, 2015
St Ninians & St Chads Church, Maylands
Whenever activity in a building is closing down, or a re-location is occurring, and a building is vacated, someone is bound to pin up a note that says, “Would the last one to leave please turn off the light?”
The note may be meant to be amusing, but it has a deep symbolic meaning. Light is followed by darkness, emptiness and a sense of abandonment. The same emotions can be present when a loved one dies. On the occasion of Ghandi’s death, it was said in India, “The light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere.” A sense of hope, purpose and direction had disappeared.
On the other hand, when darkness is scattered, or even shattered by the light, there is a sense of hope and a new beginning. Some years ago I watched a TV program about a very wealthy individual who spent millions of pounds of his own money refurbishing run down houses on a housing estate that the Local Authority had virtually abandoned. On completion the tenants said, ‘the light has dawned.” We say those same words when we understand something we have never noticed or understood, and in charismatic Christian circles, people talk about ‘seeing the light’ when they have been converted.
The prophet Isaiah preached words of hope to the war torn suffering people of God, living in spiritual darkness when he said, “The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light.” He promised a new king, a descendent of David who would bring in a new future for those who recognise him. He would be the bearer of God’s light and life.
Wind the clock forward several hundred years and we read in St Luke’s gospel about a heavenly light shining on a group of shepherds and a voice announcing news of great joy. We read in St Matthew’s gospel of Wise Men from the east following a bright light, finding a child, worshipping him and then offering their gifts.
In St John’s gospel we read of the true light who has come into the World.
In the story of creation in the book of Genesis, God says, “Let there be light, and there was light.” The darkness of chaos was no longer total. God spoke a word and the light and darkness were separated. St John tells us that in Bethlehem, God’s Word was not merely spoken, the Word was born in order to reveal that Word.
Light and darkness. Good and bad. As a child we watched cowboy films in which the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black hats. Have you noticed how often figures of evil appear in black?
Well today we celebrate the birth of the one who is the one true light, the Light of the world.
In the present time, like the people to whom Isaiah preached some 2700 years ago, we are sitting in the Western culture that is in the half-light if not darkness. In the half-light, situations appear to be different to what they really are and our reading of them is often skewed. Much of our world has turned its back on Christ the light and so sits in the darkness of its own shadow. In this shadow-land, evil thrives. We must sit in the shadows where people are and persuade them to turn and face Jesus the one true light when they will find that the darkness of their shadow falls behind them.
So I wish you a happy, holy and blessed Christmas and pray that not only may Christ’s light shine on you, but you reflect it to others who will turn round and find salvation and throughout the world so that the peace and harmony of God’s healed creation may grow closer.
Monsignor Entwistle is the first Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross. Educated at St Chad's Theological College, he was ordained a priest in the Church of England Diocese of Blackburn in 1964. After reception into the Roman Catholic Church, he was ordained to the priesthood in St Mary's Cathedral, Perth on 15 June 2012.