December is the darkest time of the year. Every December I am surprised by just how dark and long these nights can be. Every year it's as if I learn again what has always been true. There are logical reasons for this deep darkness, of course. The tilting of the earth, the coming of the Winter Solstice. Maybe this is a head / heart thing for me. It’s as though what I am physically seeing around me, is what is happening inside me as well. Shorter days, longer nights.
December holds so many stories for me. Times growing up back in Illinois, I remember the cold, crispness of the December nights. The light of the moon and stars overhead even in the darkness somehow seemed brighter on those cold, December nights than at any other time of the year. Walking home and seeing a porch light up ahead. Times in church where the lighting of the candles always played a part in the praying and the singing. Beauty and hope entered with the light into the midst of the deep, deep darkness.
Yet it is far better to light the candle
than to curse the darkness.
~ W. L. Watkinson
Advent is the season for lighting candles. For generations before us our ancestors and now we bring light to the darkness. Here in this darkest month, there is a shift, a lift that happens in a room and in a heart when a candle is lit. “More light is coming.”
What can the lighting of this candle bring? What can it represent for us? Lighting a candle can be a literal or symbolic act. This light that comes from just one candle transforms moments in and around us:
· The light that shines in the darkness can come from a graceful touch or hug that reminds us that we are physical beings;
· The light that shines in the darkness can come from a stop-us-in-our-tracks sunrise or sunset;
· The light that shines in the darkness can come from a warm mug of coffee or tea;
· The light that shines in the darkness can come from being seen when we feel like we’ve been too long in the shadows;
· The light that shines in the darkness can be heard in laughter that comes from the inside-out.
Grief can find us so often in the dark. Quiet and shaking, we are wearied by the pain of loss. Lost and wandering we can find ourselves stumbling in the darkness. Lighting one candle certainly doesn't fix it. Grief still companions us; our pain is still as close as our next breath. But / and the lighting of just one candle shifts things just a bit. More light is coming, see? There's a little light shining now where once there was only darkness. Can you hear that song you learned long ago that you've known your whole life, "this little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine"?