Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The light of your life

A talk for a LIGHT UP A LIFE Hospice service


We talk of someone as being the light of my life. It means that they are everything to us. They are the one who gives our life meaning; they are the one who is there when it gets dark and difficult; they are the one who shows up the colours and make it all so bright. With them we can be completely honest and ourselves. We can weep with them and we can laugh with them. They make us who we are. They bring out the best in us. 

And when that light is taken, our lives become very dark and very empty.

WH Auden wrote, 
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

I am very conscious that for many of you the light of your life has been extinguished. You've been in very dark places, and some of you may still be in those dark places. And Christmas just makes it worse. Each fairy light can be yet another stab of emptiness, of aloneness, of darkness. 

But there is hope. 

The title of this service is 'Light up a Life'
We hold lights to remember those who we have loved but who are no longer with us.
We remember that they were a light in our life or even the light of our life. And we give thanks for them, and we realise that even though we have lost them, we will never be able to lose what they were to us

But there is another sense in which this service is called 'Light up a life'. And the lives that are to be lit up are ours. It is about offering hope. It is about saying that in the darkness there is light. It is about taking that dead wick and bringing a light to it which means that it will begin again to flicker. 

There is one who can be the light of our life, in a way that no other human person can possibly be. He is the one who the prophet Micah foretold (Micah 5.1-5) - the one who would be born in Bethlehem. He is the one who will stand and feed his flock: and we will be secure and safe and know peace. 

600 or so years after Micah, Jesus Christ was born. John writes of him, 'What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it'.

It is only when it is night that the light will be seen.

It was night when the shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks - and that was when they saw and heard the angels declaring the glory of God. 

Of course the darkness tried to put the light out. When they hammered him to the cross, they used the nail of hatred, and the nail of lies, and the nail of viciousness, and the nail of death. It seemed that they had put out the light for three days - but like one of those magic candles you can put on birthday cakes, it suddenly flickered back into life.

And for 2000 years people have tried to extinguish this light. The story of Jesus has been abused, twisted, mocked and ridiculed. Those who have faithfully put their trust in the light have been, and today in many countries, are being persecuted. 

But nothing, nothing on earth and nothing in heaven, nothing in life and nothing in death, can now extinguish that light. 

So I do invite you to turn to this light. 
Last week I visited an older person. They had not been well and were struggling to come to terms with a body that was growing older and weaker while in their mind they remained young. And we prayed, and they wept.  

The light of whom I speak is the only one who can give us hope when we weep or want to weep but the tears won't come, and when the night is at its very darkest.

And Jesus, who John describes as the light of the world, was born that first Christmas; he suffered and died on the first Good Friday and he rose from the dead that first Easter. He is alive. He is burning brightly. And we can turn to him. 

And he will be our friend and walk beside us. One of the most famous passages in the bible says: 'The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want for nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul'. (Psalm 23) And the writer goes on to talk about how the Lord will anoint us with joy. But he will not just lead us and guide us and give us joy. He will come and live in us. 

And he will be the light of our life.

He is the one who gives our life, every life, meaning and significance. 
It is because of him that the person we have loved and lost really does matter. 
He is the one who is there when it gets dark: we have his amazing promises – promises of forgiveness, of strength, of peace, of eternal life.
He is the one who shows up the colours of life; who comforts, protects and guides us. 
He is the one in whose presence we can weep, and know that our tears really do matter, and in whose presence we will one day laugh and laugh and laugh with freedom and joy. 
He is the light who is our strength and our courage, who gives us purpose and who gives us hope. 

Several years ago I was on a ferry from Le Havre to Poole. The sea was rough and I felt dreadful. Some of you will know the feeling. You could quite happily die. Outside it got dark. But that was a mercy, because then I saw in the far distance a light. It was the light at Poole Harbour. That light is the first site of home for men or women who have been at sea for many days. In years gone by, it was the light that guided ships into that harbour. And for me that light was a sign of hope. While everything else went up and down and this way and that, it was the one fixed point. And so for about 2 to 3 hours I sat in the front of that ferry and I fixed my eyes on that light. And it got me through.


I pray that as you walk through the night, God will open your eyes and light up your life; that you will see the light - not something, but someone - and that you are given the grace to fix your eyes on Jesus. On the Jesus who lived, who suffered and died, who rose from the dead and is alive, and who promises that one day he will return to establish his kingdom of peace, justice, mercy and joy - where there will be no more sickness, no more suffering and no more death. 

And you will discover that he can be, in a way that no human person ever can, both now and then, the light of your life. 

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