The darkness always surprises me. Our languid days of summer too quickly give way to winter’s darkness and, here on the peninsula, the night is long and it is dark.
Our roads become narrow tunnels through murky forests; our homes solitary islands in a monochrome sea. I find myself traveling through the evening dusk wondering, “Where did the light go?”
Darkness is necessary. Under the cover of winter, the land replenishes itself, restoring nutrients that will become the forest’s food next spring. Darkness is a time of pulling inward, of rest and reflection. Long winter nights slow us down, giving pause from the frenetic activity of summer’s light.
In times of darkness we nestle in, taking pleasure in the little things: a warm bowl of soup, or a brief spark of sunlight reflected in a frozen puddle. In the stillness is space to ponder and to engage the necessary soul-work of quiet mindfulness. We need the silence that winter brings.
However, something within us pushes back. Our ancestors gathered around campfires and candles. Today we line our streets and fill our homes with all the marvels of illumination electricity affords.
We’re told it was German pastor Martin Luther who first brought a tree into his home and decorated it with candles, to mimic the light of stars through evergreen boughs on a cold winter night. Many of us enact this tradition every year, filling our homes with twinkling lights as an act of whimsical defiance against the darkness of the long winter that lies ahead.
In the midst of the Christmas story, a voice calls out: “Behold, those living in the land of darkness have seen a great light.” In this season, Christians celebrate the light that came to earth, bringing life and hope and joy and peace to all humankind.
In this story we also hear a mandate to be a light to the world. Instead of giving in to dehumanizing forces that seek to divide and destroy, we are called to be a light that stands against the darkness.
In this Christmas season, choose to be a light. Offer a kind word. Give an unexpected gift. Visit a lonely senior. Forgive someone who hurt you. Donate to a worthwhile cause. Attend a Christmas concert and sing along. Invite a new friend over for dinner. Opportunities to be a light abound.
As you decorate your home and hearth, fill the night with songs of mirth and pleasure. Greet each other with glad holiday greetings. Call your parents or your children. If need be, find a quiet space and rest your soul in order that your light gains strength and power.
Darkness can be necessary, but it can also be overwhelming. Be the light somebody needs today.
I wish you all a happy holiday season and a very Merry Christmas.
Award-winning columnist Dan Whitmarsh is pastor at Lakebay Community Church.
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