Hope is patience with the lamp lit.
December is the darkest month of the year. I’m never sure if my old bones can somehow feel this growing-darkness because the winter cold sneaks in, or because the nights are actually growing longer. We know about the coming of the winter, the wind blowing through our jackets and often wishing for a heavier sweater. We know about the feeling of dusk coming sooner than we expect.
We know about our spirits wishing for a lamp at the end of the day to guide us home. Many of us know of this hope Tertullian is naming. It is the hope you can find in waiting rooms and doctor’s offices, it the waiting that happens in the dark.
Lighting candles has become one of my most precious and sacred acts. It’s an intention. It’s an acknowledgment. It can be words spoken into what’s next. This intention of bringing light into what has felt so dark has brought me strength time and again. This intention has brought the possibility of action to places where I’ve felt helpless. This intention has helped slow down the noise and brought a peaceful quiet.
Lighting candles has become an acknowledgement of the pain that has felt so engulfing, so overwhelming. This acknowledgement of needing a nudge, wanting some kind of movement toward light and hope. This acknowledgement of realizing the energy of place and purpose.
Lighting candles has become a symbolic act of bringing light so that we might see beyond this painful moment of despair. Lighting candles can bring a purpose and with it an assurance that what feels so desperate and dark now, can change. Where darkness has been, light can come.
Perhaps this can be a helpful Advent practice for this season. Find a candle or two or three and set them in a place where you’ve been aware of darkness – literally or figuratively. Find a candle that brings to mind your loved one. Set the candle in a place where your soul will be invited to feel a shift – however small – a shift of seeing past this sense of deep, December darkness.
May it be for you an intention. An acknowledgement. A symbolic statement of hope for what can be next. Lighting a lamp shows us that even into the cold, December darkness light can come. To the homeless waiting through a chilled and lonely night, to families whose loved ones struggle with illness, to ones who sit and wait in jail, to children who are hungry, to the military families whose loved ones are serving in some far-off place, to the father and mother at the bedside, to the woman who is pregnant with child ~ for all of us this day and into this night ~ light is coming. Love is on its way.
Working in Family Experience at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Lesley is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. She and her partner, Linda Ellis are raising their two sons, Brogan (now a freshman at Guilford College) and Sam at sophomore at DHS in Decatur, GA.