I am so grateful to be in Christmastide after a challenging Advent!
Break forth. O Beauteous Heavenly light!and welcome in the morning!
As the twelve days of Christmas roll by, I am savoring the Light that has been increasing over these days, with our celebration of the coming of the Christ.
What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1: 3-4)
If I am honest, I see that there was Light breaking through, even in the dark night of Advent. Right next to the reporting of mayhem and stupidity, there were also reports of great generosity, great heroism, and just many, many random acts of kindness. I have been so heartened this to hear and see reports of individuals–children and adults– who have acted in Light, rather than out of the fear of darkness, in the midst of great trauma and upheaval to be bearers of the Light.
On our trip to Ireland this past summer, we visited Newgrange, a Neolithic site dating from 1000 years before Stonehenge was built, in which is constructed what seem to be an almost mystical roof box which allows sunlight to penetrate the innermost of chamber of what seems to have been a ritual gathering place, on the shortest days of the year around the Winter Solstice. At about nine in the morning on these days, the sun floods in, illuminating the entire space with splendor and glory.
I have been musing as I come to the end of this calendar year about my own practices and availability to let the Light shine in. It is often so much easier to let the darkness dominate the front page, the headlines, and the inner chambers of my heart. When people of my vintage are being asked to consider doing life reviews, it can be easy sometimes–in the dark, in the telling of the story, in the remembering one’s life–to rehearse all the darkness, all the things painted black and dismal. But the news of Christmas is that there is always Light of Christ, and the darkness cannot put it out. My call is to look for it to trust it, and to let it in.
I am carrying with my this day an image from Christmas Eve. As a grandparent, I now go usually to the Children’s Service, which has its panoply of shepherds, wise ones, sheep, donkeys and other assorted fauna. They all traipse in, following the Star, carried forward on a long pole, leading them all to the front of the chancel while the Christmas story is read. I have great delight in seeing these little and bigger ones dance that story into their bodies and minds and spirits. However, this year the Light dawned more brightly for me in the people all around the congregation whose stories I have shared in the last year: the one whose mourning has turned into dancing, the one whose tears have been wiped away, the one who had given up all hope and then was surprised by joy. I even saw Light shining brightly in those whose Hope had been deferred, but still have hope enough to trust that the Light will shine in their darkness.
I have a big fear of becoming a Pollyanna, who practices denial of pain and injustice by playing the “glad game,” in which one finds a way to be cheerful, no matter what. Yet, as I sat with the faith community on Christmas Eve, I wondered if my greater temptation is to keep the door of my “roof box” closed to the Light that there is, letting the darkness be my dominant mode of being in the world. As I take the turn into 2013, I want to make sure that I am letting the Light come into my awareness and into my life practices. I would like to be one who notices the Light when it dawns in someone, in a system, in a conflict. I would like to be one who carries Light to people in places where there is darkness of spirit and circumstance. And I want to live in the Light, living in such a way that I can be at peace with joy because I know there are no final defeats when I am letting the Light shine in!