“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great Light…”
“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it…”
“In them there is no darkness at all, the night and the day are both alike…”
“…For those who lived in the land of the great shadow, on them, light has dawned.”
The solstice was this weekend. On Saturday, in the northern hemisphere, we had the shortest day of the year, where we currently live the day is nine hours and forty-four minutes long. I usually reflect during this time of year that one of the reasons I am glad that we use Christmas lights to celebrate the season is because we are fighting off the length of the darkness of the night.
Our neighbors have multiple light displays and blowup decorations in their front yard, and I asked my husband when we were both awake in the middle of the night if it was close to dawn, or just the neighbors. It was just the neighbors. Just enough light to have me wonder if I should be waking up, not enough to keep me awake.
I wonder if Christianity has become that for some people… just enough light to wonder if they could wake up, not enough to keep them awake. Are we all flash and no warmth?
I was standing next to a woman at the grocery store who was complaining about Christmas, because it wasn’t any fun for her. She remembered it being fun when she was a kid, but now it was more a list of chores, a set of things added to what she had to get done, decorations to put up and immediately take down again. I wonder if she had budgets to check against wishlists, consumerism facing limited resources, trying to make it still “magical” for her kids, but really wishing she could have a day with less, not more. She was already ready for it to be over, for Christmas to be over and done with, something else she didn’t have to face anymore as she checked out at the grocery line on her way home from work with a kid in tow and dinner still to cook and get on the table.
One of the families in our neighborhood lost their baby at 23 weeks gestation, the would-have-been grandfather told me last week. I wonder if they will have both a hard time with this Christmas, and the next, and easter, when the due date would have been, now both high holy christian calendar celebrations reminders of their loss.
Loss seems harder this time of year.
We remember who is missing at the table, we grieve the conversations we never got to have, we feel the loss of who we never got to see experience this thing we are doing together.
And then, even if the grief isn’t weighing heavier, there is aggressively cheerful holiday music playing practically everywhere we go—the grocery store, the coffee shop, the clothing stores, the bank, the school, and (if we’re not careful) the church. Our culture doesn’t want to hold the space for anything but holiday cheer.
I wonder if we become like my neighbor’s light display, just enough to fake the dawn but never enough to usher in the sun. I want to shine light towards hope, but I rarely know what tangible thing that hope would be.
And Scripture promises that hope, the light shining in the darkness, a light dawning, a great light that illuminates the path on the way that leads to life.
My daughter, on the ride to church today complained because it was cloudy. The sun was hiding behind the clouds. She’d rather have the sun. But even behind the clouds, we know the sun is still shining. And, now that we have passed through the longest night, the sun will be returning even through the cold of our winter.
Come, Light. Come.