Preached 3rd January 2016
A young man called Moses spent ten years in prison in Nigeria after being arrested, at the age of sixteen, on suspicion of stealing three mobile phones. He denied committing the crime but was horribly tortured until he made two “confessions”. After eight years in prison he was sentenced to death – a penalty that is illegal under international law as he was still a child when he was arrested. The conviction was based solely on the confessions made under torture and a victim’s testimony.
Amnesty International worked on behalf of Moses and galvanised more than 800,000 people around the world into sending messages calling for Moses to be released. And he was released in May last year.
Amnesty International campaigns for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all and its symbol or logo is a lighted candle with a strand of barbed wire wound around it.
They light a candle of hope in the darkness of abuses of human rights and it makes a difference. All of us who support its work with financial contributions and by sending messages on behalf of people like Moses are also lighting candles of hope and being part of making that difference.
And how the world needs us to make such differences.
One ten minute news bulletin on radio or television can bring into our homes such stories of deprivation, violence, fear, despair and just horrible awfulness that we may find ourselves wondering what on earth God is thinking of to allow it all to happen and what on earth he is doing to stop it.
Well first of all, I believe that in all of these awful dark situations we hear and read about there are lights burning, burning because there are people seeking peace and reconciliation wherever there is conflict; bringing medical aid wherever there is disease; shelter, food and water wherever people are homeless and hungry; freedom and tolerance wherever there is oppression and persecution.
I also believe that St John tells us exactly what on earth God has done to overcome the world’s darkness.
St John says that Jesus, born in the humblest of circumstances, is the Light of the World, the true light that from before time began has given life and enlightened everyone who has come into being.
He is the Word of God made flesh and He has come to live alongside us, to experience fully what it is to be human with all our joys and sorrows, hopes and fears, glories and horrors.
Jesus is the Light of the World and John tells us that “we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth”.
Because Jesus, the Son of God, is so close to his Father’s heart we can look at him and see what God is like.
And what we see in Jesus is grace and truth, compassion and wisdom, a ready willingness to heal and forgive and an acceptance of anyone who is on the edges of society, despised and rejected by all, except Jesus.
The tragedy is that Jesus himself was despised and rejected and like the Amnesty candle with its barbed wire, the Light of the World is forced to wear a crown of thorns as it is crucified.
But the Light of the World has its being before all time, before all creation and is of God and therefore the darkness of death cannot extinguish it – instead it bursts into a blaze of glory which is eternal and all powerful – no darkness will ever overcome it.
I think this is the message Christians need to take into the world in this New Year and take it with a confidence, a joy and a hope that others can believe in.
The message that Jesus is the Son of God, the Word of God, the Light of the World and although many today will reject him, to those who receive and accept him, who believe in his name, he still gives power to become children of God.
His invitation calls to us and to the whole world:
“Come and enjoy the love of God, as I do.
Come and express the generosity of God, as I do.
Come and display the glory of God, as I do.
Come and be children of God, at home in God, resembling him in every way.”
Come and be lights of the world, shine in the darkness and pray that the time will soon come when there is no darkness and the whole world is seen in the glory of its one true light