28th November 2022

From Darkness to Light: Friday 25 November 2022

From Darkness to Light: Friday 25 November 2022

A Sermon preached by The Very Revd Nicholas Papadopulos, Dean of Salisbury.

Friday 25 November 2022, From Darkness to Light: The Advent Procession.


The word that 2022 has bequeathed to the Collins English Dictionary, is ‘permacrisis’.  War in Europe; swaggering authoritarianism; dangerous populism; unprecedented heatwaves; devastating floods; escalating fuel and food costs; squeezed wage packets; tumultuous politics.

Each has meant decisions, decisions which have had huge consequences for us, decisions which have been taken in far-away places; in Moscow, in Sharm El Sheikh, and in Whitehall.  Many of us have felt ourselves to be, at best, spectators of the inexorable unfolding of a tragic drama.

If ‘permacrisis’ is a new word; ‘, then ‘crisis’ is an old word.  It appears only once in the English Bible that I use.  Yet in the Greek original it appears hundreds of times, for at root ‘crisis’ means ‘decision’.  A crisis may be a calamity, but a crisis is always a moment of decision.

And what we are offered tonight is not just sublime music and exquisite liturgical theatre, but an experiential foretaste of the decision within which all human history is lived.  From the single flame lit at the west end to the refulgent climax at the high altar From Darkness to Light catches us up into the eternal decision that God makes – the eternal decision that God makes for you and for me.  God breathes creation into being; God comes to live and die and rise again among us in Jesus; God will in the fulness of time draw all creation to himself.

We cannot change the momentous decisions of 2022 but tonight and tomorrow and the day after we can – each of us – turn the year of permacrisis on its head and stop being its spectators.  If we recall what we will re-learn tonight, we can become advocates for and agents of a new beginning.  Decision-makers.

For the darkness will not overcome the light that has come into the world in Christ Jesus.  His decision is to walk in our footsteps, and our decision can be to walk in his: service, not self-aggrandisement; generosity, not greed; hope, not fear; light, not dark, life, not death.  “A crisis…may be not only a time for worry in the face of perceived peril,” writes Richard McBrien “but a time for exhilaration in the face of perceived opportunity.”

Let us seize it, and let us pray:

Faithful God,

your world is full of fear.

Hunger, cold, and loneliness are all around.

Your children are hurting.

Into our darkness comes the child of Bethlehem –

Jesus, the light who cannot be overcome.

He is with us always.

He speaks words of hope and words of truth.

May his Spirit fill our hearts this Advent

and awaken us to your purposes:

making us generous in giving,

active in serving,

and alert to your reign of justice, mercy, and peace,

which he calls us to bring to birth – here, and now.