There is a story going the rounds about a doctor in Congo who is called in the middle of the night to go to his local hospital and perform an emergency operation on a pregnant woman without which both the mother and her child will certainly die. He prepares for the operation and as he begins and makes the very first cut, the lights in the hospital fail. He waits in the pitch black windowless operating theatre for them to come back on again, as they usually do and they do not. What is he to do? Without the operation he knows that the mother and her baby will die. Eventually the nurse who is assisting him pulls out her phone and puts on the torch. In the next few minutes, one by one, another five nurses and cleaners appear each with their phones and their lights. The doctor is able to perform the operation successfully and the lives of mother and baby are saved.
Over Christmas, as I go to different churches, I know I shall be talking about Jesus being born in Bethlehem as a light that comes into the world; a light that makes all the difference – just like those lights on the phones in that operating theatre.
I remember when I was quite young, like a lot of young children, being afraid of the dark. I always wanted a light on in my room when I went to sleep, or at least the door left open so that I could see the light in the corridor. Light is good at taking away fear.
I know a lot of people have been anxious and a bit afraid this year. People have been afraid of some of the big things. Some have been afraid about Brexit, or the change of President in the USA. Others have been more afraid about personal things. People have been afraid of whether they would lose their jobs, or lose their partner or their children. People have been afraid about whether they would be able to feed their children or about whether they were going to get ill.
The Christmas story tells of Jesus coming into a world full of fear. The king was so cruel that he thought nothing of killing all the babies under the age of two in Bethlehem because he was afraid that one of them might become King in place of him. His mother and father have to flee with him as a young baby to try to find a place of safety. So the Christmas story tells us that God knows all about fear and into a world full of fear he comes as a light to help us to be less afraid, by letting us know that we are never completely alone.
A light can help us to feel less afraid and it can help us feel less alone.
I know that I want to find some time on my own over Christmas to think just a bit about how, where I live, I can be a bit of a light and make a difference too.
Christmas Message from The Rt Revd Mark Bryant – Bishop of Jarrow