The first chapter of the Gospel of John in the Christian Bible includes the following words: “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:9).
2021 has been a dark year for many people all over the world. It has been a year marked by unpredictability, marked by deaths from Covid-19, marked by natural disasters with many people losing their homes and all they had worked for, a year marked by refugee crises in many parts of the world, a year of forced and voluntary migrations with challenges and dangers on land, at sea and in the air. Indeed, it has been a very dark year, this year of 2021.
In a time like this, in such a time of deep darkness, it is all the more important to remember that Jesus is indeed the light of the world.
The Christmas Story encourages us to find hope in our darkest times. It encourages us because, even though Christmas was a time of darkness for Jesus and his own family, there was also true joy and hope. Yes, Joseph and Mary were on a difficult journey to Bethlehem to register for the census. Yes, because there was no room anywhere for them, Mary had to give birth in a stable. Yet even so, there was joy over that birth in that stable. There was joy over the safe delivery of the baby Jesus. There was joy among the choir of angels who sang to the glory of God. `Glory to God in the highest, peace, goodwill to all men on earth`. There was joy among the shepherds who visited to encourage Joseph and Mary and to see the new born baby. There was joy over the wise men from the East who brought gold, frankincense and myrrh, important provisions to ensure their survival on the dangerous journey to come.
Even though soon afterwards Jesus and his parents were forced to flee from the assassins sent by King Herod to live as refugees in a foreign land, the family survived and thrived. Indeed, the light of Jesus pierced the darkness even when he was a newborn baby.
Even in this dark year of 2021, then, we can be joyful. The year 2021 marks the two-hundredth anniversary of the arrival of the Methodist Church in the Gambia. We celebrate that God has used the Methodist Church to bring God’s love to our nation for two centuries and we rejoice over the positive contributions which the Methodist Church has made to many parts of our nation’s life. We are grateful for those first Methodist missionaries and the sacrifices they made to bring the light of Jesus to our nation. We are grateful for the many Methodist schools who have enabled young Gambians to study and progress in life. We rejoice that to this day the Methodist Church is a spiritual home for many, inspiring them to live lives dedicated to the common good and making many positive contributions to the welfare of all in The Gambia.
Even in this dark year of 2021, then, we can be joyful. We are grateful for a peaceful Presidential election. We are grateful to all Gambians for continuing peaceful co-existence. We are grateful for those in the diaspora and we thank them for their prayers for the good of all. And we are grateful to Almighty God that he has sustained us in a peaceful community.
Even in this dark year of 2021, then, we can be hopeful in the midst of loss and bereavement.
Many have lost loved ones, but we trust that the light of Jesus will lead them into life everlasting.
With Jesus as our light, let us then hold on to joy and hope. Let us continue to treat one another with respect and kindness. Let us be generous and helpful to one another. Let us give care to the vulnerable. Let us treasure and celebrate our diversity. Let us bring positive change to each other. Let us invest in the wellbeing of the nation.
With Jesus as our light, we have a sure foundation for a hope that helps us to keep going, no matter what.
We have all the encouragement to keep going.
Let us remember the traditional values of family life, maintaining and, where necessary building good relationships between the generations, so that young and old can thrive together. Let us build communities of respect and trust where all can feel safe, welcome and at home, no matter our religious or cultural differences. In this time where darkness tries to spread fear, let us remain confident in the light of Jesus, who brings peace to the world. Let us move forward with courage, and expect the best from one another and give our best to each other. Together we can achieve so much more than each of us can do on his or her own.
Let us continue to pray for everyone, for our children and young people, for the economy of the country and also for our families in the diaspora.
May Almighty God bless and protect us this Christmas. May the peace of God be in our hearts and minds. May the Holy Spirit lift us above our sorrows during this pandemic and give us peace.
May the grace and love of God continue to be a reality in our lives, for God is always with us, remains with us, no matter what, and He will remain with us, forever and ever. Amen
A blessed Christmas Season to you all. Shalom, Shalom