I wrote this to share at Coffeehouse Carols Sunday a week ago–these thoughts that stayed close to my heart after a phone conversation with a dear friend. May this day of Light and Love give you hope during this darkest season.
“We ask for the light. But then we can’t handle what it shows us.”
When I heard the words of my friend echoing across the phone line, my breath caught and I was silent.
“I’m going to have to sit with this for a moment,” I told her when I found my voice.
And then I sat with it for many days, for the whole ten days before Christmas.
During this time of Light and Love and candles and twinkle lights on the trees and houses and storefronts and all the lights in all the places, during this time of celebrating the Light that broke through the darkness—how could I begin to contemplate the hard things that the Light brings?
We all seek the Light. Like the shepherds and Magi and all who followed the shining light to find the Messiah, we look for it; our souls crave the Light in the darkness. Hope in the brokenness. We see it as Good and Holy and Perfect and Emmanuel. God With Us.
And yet, we’ve all had those moments, haven’t we? The pain of the light piercing the darkness? Sleeping in a dark room and the curtains are open to the full sunlight of the day? We’re outside or riding in the car and the sun comes out from behind the clouds and our sunglasses are nowhere to be found? Sitting in a dark theater and the lights come up at the end of the show?
It can be abrupt. Jarring. Startling.
When the light shines suddenly in a place of darkness, in those first moments we can see things that are quite unpleasant. Things scurry and run quicker than our eyes can discern, seeking the cover of darkness once again. When the Light first came into the world as one of us over 2000 years ago, then too, the Light shone brightly and showed us things that were not okay. Things that had been under the cover of darkness for so long—injustice, poverty, condemnation, evil thoughts and deeds, wickedness, deceit.
The Light did not bring beauty to the world in the most conventional of ways. The One Who Came brought beauty by shining a spotlight on all of the things hiding in the dark and showing us how to live in such a way as to end those things that were scurrying for cover. To follow in the dust of the rabbi and do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly. To LOVE and never let the darkness cover up all that is hurting our world ever again.
It’s not easy. In fact, it’s exhausting. As exhausting as trying to pick out the perfect gift on Christmas Eve or as frustrating as trying to return the shirt that didn’t fit on the day after Christmas. Even more so. To carry all of the things that are hurting and painful and broken in one’s heart and mind, and to seek to find ways to end them, to heal them, to relieve them—it’s just hard.
The Coming of the Light. Hope in New Life. Joy in the sound of a cry joining the soft lowing and stirring of the animals surrounding the newborn child.
The dawn will come and the days will pass, and it will become apparent that the coming of the Light did not suddenly change the way things are done. In fact, His coming only emphasized just how wrong things had been for far too long.
And yet—imagine being in the darkest place imaginable. Maybe this doesn’t take much thought for some of us—for those for whom this is a very real reality. So the darkness is so dark and thick and heavy, not only can you not see but you can feel the darkness in every fiber of your being. It is oppressive. You feel alone, disoriented, lost. And hope is fading fast. The silence is deafening. Or the worries in your heart and mind clamor for attention, and it is dizzying.
And then one night, in one moment, the Light shines through. And while that can be quite disorienting and scary at first, once you get your bearings, you look around. And what the Light shows us, blesses us with, is that there are OTHERS. We are not alone. He gives us the gift of drawing others close to His grace, and we gather together and share the journey, all of the journey.
My Mama used to say, “Joys multiplied, sorrows divided.”
For me that is the beauty of the Light. Of the gift we are given at Christmas.
We gather together around the baby each and every year and we sing our praises and we look for some sign that our Hope is not in vain. If we take a moment and look around at all who are in the glow of the Light, we can see that we are not alone.
There are others there to help us up when we fall, to help us find hope in the situations that break our hearts. There are those who will point out the good in the midst of even the hardest of things, and those will carry on when we just can’t. They show up with casseroles and love letters and kind words and hand-drawn pictures and cups of hot chocolate with candy canes for stirring. And they show up, again and again, because, for all of the hard things the Light shows us, the most important things that He shows us is that we are a part of something really, really good. We are a part of a community. A group of folks who choose love. Who care. Who seek to find the things that scurry for cover and bring them out into the open so Love and Light can bring the beautiful and powerful transformation, through our passion and love and efforts to follow in the dust of the child who was born so long ago and stays at our sides still today. Our steps might be clumsy at times, but we are on the right path and we are together.
My folks used to remind my siblings and me, whenever we would go anywhere, to stick together.
I think that’s the most beautiful part of the Christmas message.
Look out for each other.
Hold hands when crossing the street or walking through the hard things.
And no matter our differences in any given moment, love each other.
God With Us, and we are With each other. Standing in the Light.
Merry Christmas! And may Epiphany and Light be ours today and everyday.
Love to all.