"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it." (John 1:5)
Each year the Queen of England presents a Christmas Message to the people of the Commonwealth of the United Kingdom. Her message is televised for all to see and hear. She tries to reflect upon the Christmas Season and to give the citizens some hope for the year to come. This year she quoted the verse above as part of her message. She talked about how even in the darkest of days we can find light to shine in our world. She concluded by saying that if we follow Jesus and try to love one another, the light will overcome the darkness.
I watched her message on Youtube and thought, "How remarkable that the leader of a country of the world would quote from the Bible and give a bit of Christian testimony in her remarks to her citizens." Wait, though, the United Kingdom does not have separation of church and state as we do in the United States. They have an official state church, The Church of England, and the Queen serves as the head of that church, along with the Archbishop of Canterbury. The intertwining of Christian faith into the comments of the Queen of England is not exceptional. It is expected.
You see...England has a plethora of religious institutions across its land, just as we do in the United States. Everyone has freedom of religion to worship as one chooses and everyone has the right not to belong to a religious group if one so chooses. The United Kingdom, however, has an official state church and it is the Church of England and the Queen represents that church so she can say as she wishes on television as she speaks for her country and this year she shared a bit of scripture and a bit of faith with those who were watching. They did not have to agree with her but she was speaking out of her own experience to those who would hear her.
Isn't that what sharing one's faith is about? Is it not testifying to what one believes without requiring that others also believe or agree with what one has said? You and I, as well as the Queen, can voice what we believe to others as we share our faith but we can also allow others to have the freedom to believe what they will without requiring that they think or believe as we do.
Our church denomination, the United Church of Christ, has similar beliefs when it comes to faith sharing. We do our mission work through our mission division, along with the Disciples of Christ church, in that same way, reaching out to all, but not trying to convert others who have their own faith tradition, making them think that their faith tradition is less authentic to our own. We believe in shining the light in the darkness but do not call what other believe as darkness if they see their faith tradition as a path to God as we see our own in that way.
John's Gospel begins with a section that gives a clue as to what the rest of the Gospel will present. Again and again, John's Jesus encounters people whose eyes are not opened and they live in darkness and suddenly because of the life and ministry of Jesus they can see, both naturally and spiritually. The light of Jesus shines in the darkness of the world and the darkness cannot overcome it.
We live in a dark world in many ways. There are some who would do violence against others and say they are doing the will of God. They are some who will advocate mistreating others and say they are Christians while doing it. The light shines in the darkness and points the way and the way it points to is the way of the man who called himself "the way, the truth, the life". God sent his son Jesus to be the light to shine in the darkness and the darkness will never overcome it or be able to put it out. We are the ones to testify to the light, even as John did, and what we say to others may shine light into the darkness they may be experiencing in life.