May the Light of Life Reign Over the Darkness in Europe

Winters are rough in the Czech Republic. The combination of its northern position on the globe and its cloudy climate make for very dark days. For weeks the sun rises around nine in the morning and sets by three in the afternoon. Thick fog hangs like a cloak on everyone’s shoulders.

There are, though, many sweet traditions that bring light to the middle of winter. During December especially the windows of homes and apartments are brightly lit with candles. Town squares are adorned with strings of lights and towering Christmas trees topped by shining stars. Every square has its own Christmas market, including booths of hot chocolate and warm wine, candles, cookies, ornaments, and local handicrafts. Christmas trees remain standing through January, extending the festive feel well after the holiday. All the traditions bring a cheery glow to what otherwise feels like a damp and dark time. 

Christ followers living through European winters can’t help but sense the similarities between the dark physical climate and the dark spiritual climate there. Europe, as a whole, has an average Christian population of only 2.7% (many countries, like the Czech Republic, number even less than 0.5% Evangelical Christian). While the landscape is dotted with churches and cathedrals and crosses, very few believe. In reality, it’s a post-Christian continent with an overwhelming disregard for any religion at all. 

But just as the Christmas lights pierce the darkness, so do the Christians in each country. Local believers are a city on a hill, a bright light that inevitably causes others to see their good works and—hopefully, by God’s grace—ultimately give glory to the Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).  Indeed, as John says, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5), so too European Christians are not overcome, though they are vastly outnumbered. 

History too bears witness to the link between the spiritual light and physical light of Christmastime in Europe. It is said that during the 1600s Christians burned candles in their windows, in clear view of those outside, so that other Christians would know their brothers and sisters were within. The candle was an invitation to Christ followers to come in and join their spiritual family, to break bread and worship together.

It’s poignant that during their physically darkest days each year, European Christians celebrate the birth of “the true light, which gives light to everyone…coming into the world” (John 1:9). In a very real sense, Christ followers on that continent are “the people dwelling in darkness [who] have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16). 

Across Europe Christmas markets and candle-lit windows are pushing back the darkness of the season. So too European Christians and foreign missionaries move amongst the people shining the light of Christ, saying with their lives, “this is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). 

Pray that the multitudes across Europe who are now in darkness would be drawn to Jesus, who is the light of the world. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). May it be so from Ireland to Sweden, from Portugal to Ukraine, from Spain to Estonia, from the Netherlands to Moldova.