It gets dark so early this time of year. And it may be just me, but it seems that winter nights are somehow darker than those in the summer.
Perhaps it’s the absence of fireflies, or the positioning of the stars and the moon, or it’s simply that winter skies tend to be more overcast. And perhaps it’s the shortness of daylight that makes the winter darkness seem deeper – not just longer.
Which is how all darkness feels, don’t you think? The darkness of depression, or grief, or shame and guilt? The longer it lasts, darker it gets. The good news is that we don’t have to linger in it… We can look for the stars, light candles or get a few boxes of really pretty Christmas lights 🙂 We can hold the hope for healing and joy even through the hardest of times.
One evening last week, I drove to a store with Blais, my youngest son. We passed by some nice big houses and farms that were beautifully decorated with Christmas lights. There was a brand new condo building that left us both breathless.
We oohed and aahed and agreed that it looked like something you’d see at Disney’s Magic Kingdom. (He was playing soundtrack music for me, so I really felt like I was on a ride, not on an errand to Target, on a busy weekday evening.)
The music and the little lights were like fairy dust that lifted my spirit from the busyness of daily life to an extraordinary experience. I was overcome with awe and gratitude. I reached out to my boy and squeezed his hand. “It’s magical, isn’t it?” “Yea,” he said. “I love you, Blais,” I continued without thinking. It was the most natural thing to say at that moment. “I love you too, Mama.”
The little Christmas lights became like those lights along the air strips that guide planes to take off and land. They guided my heart and my mind to become fully present and aware of the love in my life. And when I expressed it, the love loved me right back 😉
Then, with an excitement that felt like something I used to feel as a child, I told him how awesome it is that grown-ups are willing to go through all that trouble of buying the lights, getting on big tall ladders and working for hours just to make a bit of magic for a few short weeks! Just to break up the darkness of those long winter nights.
There was a time when I used to get grumpy about putting up Christmas decorations during Advent – encouraged by friends who also complained about radio stations playing Christmas music before December 25th.
I loved (and still do) the invitation to reflect on darkness and light of the Advent season. I loved, and still do, the opportunity to use those four weeks before Christmas – and those long dark nights symbolically – to notice the dark, to feel the longing for a real and present God, and explore all the places in our own hearts where we aren’t allowing the Light to penetrate us and bring Grace and healing – so that we can open ourselves more to it.
But I don’t think we need to linger in the darkness of the night – or of our own soul – in order to experience that. I don’t think we need to revel in darkness and let it overcome us to a point where it becomes something we ‘endure’ for a pay off.
The Light and Love and the holy birth of Emmanuel (God with us) is not a reward we ‘earn’ but a beautiful, amazing gift that is freely given to us.
I realize that the grumpiness I used to feel was coming from my own struggle with the darkness of depression, anxiety and panic attacks. I couldn’t see that the Miracle of Love and Healing I needed and was praying for, was already there. I needed something real and palpable to guide me out of my long night, but I failed to see it in such ‘worldly’ things as Christmas lights. Or perhaps I was too scared to admit that simple joys and playfulness are sometimes the best healing agents.
I hope you are able to set some time each day to sit in contemplation and explore the areas of your life where you long for God, Love and Healing.
I hope you can spend time in silence and simply listen to God listening to you (I read once that Mother Theresa used to say that, when she prayed, God often didn’t ‘speak’ to her and so she simply listened to God listening to her.)
Do this inside of your heart. And then, display the lights and ring the music on the outside. You never know whom your display might inspire and guide back to Love.