Christmas Outreach Event By Indian Friends At TCE

Author: 
Francis Noordanus

Through recent weeks there has been much creative energy going into the preparation of the second Christmas Celebration Outreach to the Indian presence in the wider region by Indian members of Trinity Church.  The church building was well used and richly decorated for the event.  What impressed me was that everyone in the Trinity Indian Community took part.  The participation of children was impressive.  Many talents were drawn upon including the Indian speciality of group dancing in which everyone could take part.  Carols were sung in several Indian langauges as well as English.  On a coming Sunday a fuller sharing will come to share with the wider congregation what emerged from this.  

This photo shows a mass choir singing moment.



This year the decision was made to allow some non-Indians to come and I was privileged to be among them.  In fact I was asked to bring a message which I had to prepare with a Hindu audience in mind.   The text follows here with beamer images included:

 

Indian Christmas Outreach Message on Theme of Light 2014   

Many of us are living in a land far from where we were born or grew up.  We have become world travellers and so we get to see how other people live and what they do.  Some of you have just seen the St Nicolas Feest for the first time.  Among the common reasons people of the world celebrate there are many festivals of light.  Light is universally experienced as something wonderful, very special, even magical.

 

 

The sensation of light breaking into any darkness is felt as an impact on our eyes and even our soul.  This is a very human experience whether it is a sunrise over the mountains or a sacred fire in the darkness.

 

 

So it is no surprise that in our languages we speak of the coming of spiritual light as liberating and something to celebrate.  It is like bringing sight to a blind person or setting a prisoner free.  It tells a story of goodness conquering and vanquishing evil that brings hope when shadows seem large.

In English the word ‘Enlightenment’ applies this to what happens to individuals or a whole civilization when the darkness of mind or soul is broken and wiped away by some form of illumination be that through revelation, discovery or education.

Buddhists and Hindus aspire to spiritual enlightenment to enter a liberating consciousness.

Westerners speak of The Enlightenment as a period of European history that saw a triumph of reason over superstition in recent centuries. 

So however it is framed, around the world there are all sorts of festivals and celebrations that involve lights and fire along with good food and happy music.  Every September there is a small light festival with a lichtjes/small lamp route and a GLOW display to celebrate the liberation of Eindhoven in 1944 and Eindhoven’s heritage of making lightbulbs

 

In the Ancient World of what is now Israel and Palestine the Jewish people living there celebrated light as a symbol of their God’s saving work in their history.  Around 1400 BC they experienced liberation from slavery in Ancient Egypt.  They had seen God’s presence with them in a pillar of fire which they followed as they walked in the cool of the night through the desert. 

So each year they celebrated this experience of God’s liberation with a great feast that involved an enormous oil burning lamp stand which threw out a lot of light!

Here is a picture of a replica and one being lit today.  This type of lamp is called a ‘Menorah’  It has some things in common with a 'Deepawali' as used in the festival of Diwalli.  The Menorah has seven lamps and the deepawali has five.

 

For the Jewish people the light in the darkness spoke of God’s saving presence with his people as he led them out of the darkness of slavery.  It also spoke of how God slowly reveals himself to those whose eyes are opened to know Him.

 

It happened this way.  Each evening during the festival as the darkness fell, this great seven branched oil lamp was lit in a wide open courtyard of the temple and it produced enough light for people to celebrate all around.  It was high and bright shining into homes and courtyards all through the ancient city of Jerusalem.  Apparently everyone could see it.

This was an ancient celebration of light to symbolize a people’s experience of God in their history.

It was all safe and familiar year after year during the festival until almost 2000 years ago when something totally unexpected happened!  One day, against this background, someone stepped forward and in a very big voice proclaimed for all to hear:  “I am the light of the world.”

Who was this?  This was Jesus from the village of Nazareth and it was not the first time he had said something like this.  Some people thought this was very rude.  The priests who were in charge of lighting this magnificent menorah to celebrate the light of God with his people were not at all impressed.  Some people were embarrassed and some were shocked.

In just a few words he was upsetting everything and yet saying something that could not be dismissed and many came to believe.

Among the peoples of the world there are many inspiring stories about spiritual light.  There are those who seem in some way to have become enlightened.  There are even those who claim to be able to bring light to others.  There are even many who are prepared to pay for this!

Let me go back to Jesus’ actual words as he stepped out to upstage the great light display which can be read in the Gospel of John chapter 8 as: 

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 

 

Jesus was clear that he was not just another luminary or shining person for his people.  Nor was he just another teacher of light among all the others.  He was clearly claiming to be light itself, the one true light for all humanity from every race and culture.  That is something to process but then he went even further to say, if you follow me you will also walk in the light that I AM as the giver of life.

At this point we may need to pinch ourselves.  These words form a claim that cannot be negotiated with.  Either Jesus is who he says he is as The Light of the World or he is not and must be considered either a liar or a mad man.  He is either totally correct about himself or he is out of his mind and best ignored.  As scientists might say, more research is required!

One thing Christians take from these words is that the light of life is personal.  It is not just an idea or a body of teaching or a set of rules to guide us as we live our lives.  The light is not like the impersonal Force of Star Wars.  Rather it comes in a personality revealed in Jesus.  We believe Jesus was telling the truth about himself and that receiving him means receiving The Light. 

We do this by allowing him to walk into our lives and to illuminate our minds, our hearts and all we are and following him.  We may well become enlightened in the pattern of Jesus but it comes through our open receiving of him as The Light of the World. 


Christmas is a celebration of the light coming into the world in the person of Jesus as a baby, the baby who would one day upstage every festival of light by claiming to be the very light itself.