John the Baptist knew he was not the light that the world was hoping for. But he knew he was commissioned to witness to that light and point to the true light when it appeared.
We live today in an era of false, short-lived prophets especially in our anarchic and amoral political world. Their campaign messages can descend into the surreal, absurd to any reasonable person, as they drag fringe conspiracy theories into public debate to flatter and deceive extremists. The powers of illusion when they are not exposed by authentic prophets drain the spirit. Where is the light of truth, the truth that sets us free, the light of the world?
In many faiths and cultures at this time of the year festivals of light are celebrated. Hannukah for the Jews, with the lighting of candles, meals, song, games and gifts for children. Diwali, the Hindu Festival celebrating the victory of light over darkness, truth over ignorance , good over evil. Variations of this are joyfully observed by Jains and Sikhs. In Thailand and South-East Asia the festival of Loi Krathong sees baskets of burning lights set sail on rivers to thank the gods of water.
Christmas is celebrated on December 25th because it replaced the feast of the Roman god Sol Invictus, which like all these festivals is linked to the winter solstice, happening in a few days, the shortest day and the longest night. The great cycle of the sun reaches its nadir but as it hits the lowest point it is reborn. A new cycle begins and then each day is longer than the one before, at first imperceptibly but soon undeniably.
New Grange is a monumental 5,000 year-old burial mound in Count Meath, Ireland. At sunrise on December 21st, the first ray of direct sunlight from the new-born sun precisely, silently, enters the narrow aperture over the entrance, penetrates into the mound of solid rock and fills the inner chamber with golden light for seventeen minutes. Light overcomes darkness. It is irresistible and yet gentle. As it grows stronger with occasional surges, its intensity increases and the power of its beauty. It communicates purely by itself – the meaning of truth.
I hope you can take time to watch this short silent video of the phenomenon. It captures a sacred moment, the revelation of God in nature. And it may give you a sense of how the light of Christ, the light of truth, actually enters and changes our world.