I must say, whoever he was, X started something pretty unusual. In three short years, the length of an undergraduate’s career, he lit a light that 20 centuries of brutal human history have not been able to extinguish. Without appearing on coast to coast television, without writing a book, without the benefit of 747 jets to catapult him around the place, he did it. Nor did he have the right background or training. None of the right schools or universities appear on his curriculum vitae. His absence of proper qualifications and social status is quite infuriating.
But he was good. Devastatingly good. If only he could have pandered a little more to hate or lust or revenge or division or cruelty. Then he would have been much more tolerable. But this maddening goodness. It shows us up so terribly, so that either we are driven to the devil and his darkness to escape its clutches, or we are trapped by its magnetism and mercilessly whiplashed by its demands.
Comfy with darkness
The trouble is that to all of us the dark side of our natures is so delicious. To surrender hate or the desire for revenge is like asking the addict to give up drugs or calling on the alcoholic to forsake his brandy. The fact is we love our darkness. We are more at home with it. That’s what X said: ‘This is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.’ In fact X seemed quite dominated in his life and teaching by this darkness and light business. He saw our poor, torn, old planet as full of darkness and said he was the light. One of his friends put it this way: ‘In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.’ That’s rather encouraging. X is not defeated by darkness or anything. Strange too, isn’t it, that at Xmas there does seem to be more light around. A bit more love and kindness and goodwill. People laugh and are happy and children are especially important. And there is music in the air. And we feel as if a bit of X is coming through. And we wish it could last. But the ceasefire is only for 24 hours – a gesture to X and to plum pudding – and then the guns start again. Back to business. Back to darkness. Back to revenge. Back to all the unworkable answers that X is so against.
Really when you stop to think of it, it’s a shame we can’t stick with him – with X I mean – when once a year we see how well he works. Of course there are those who know X in their lives as a daily rather than an annual disturbance, because it is creative and life-giving and full of mercy, hope and love. Just like Christmas, when the identity of X is clear.
Beloved friends, as we leave Christmas of 2015 and move into the New Year of 2016, the challenge to all of us is to make the identity of Christ really clear to all those around us.
Our required obedience
This is our required obedience to the Great Commission. To get Christ out of the stable and into the world.
And each one of us has a role. We may not preach to the multitudes or else to crowded stadiums, or even to packed churches. But we can tell a neighbour, or the petrol attendant, or someone in the Spar, or a relative or our children that the Greatest Thing in all Heaven and Earth is to know the Christ of Christmas and to make Him known.
People do not know what the Christ-X factor is that they so desperately need for life and living. And for dying.
It’s our job to tell them.