These Little Lights of Mine
I love Christmas. I love the decorations and the trees and the Nativity scenes and the reindeer on people's lawns. I love the cookies and the Christmas morning casserole and monkey bread and hot apple cider. I love singing Christmas carols at church and around the piano with the children.
Most of all, I love hearing the story of how Jesus Christ came to earth as a tiny baby. I used to think that it was one of most unlikely stories of all time. Last week, however, I heard a sermon by Rob Bell, and he pointed out that for nearly 500 years before Christ's birth, there were several stories of Roman gods that "lived" very similar lives, died similar deaths, and rose from the dead. I'm sure I will spell some of the names wrong, but here goes: Mithra, Addis, Adonis, Horis, and even Julius Caesar himself are among several who are said to have been either born of virgins, crucified, and/or resurrected. The thing that sets Jesus apart is the fact that He is the only one who not only existed in real life, but also has an empty tomb with his name plate above it. But that's not the point of this blog.
Tonight the focus is on Christmas.
Another thing I love about Christmas is the lights.
Sure, there are the lights that are meticulously placed along the rooflines of most of the stores and other businesses here in Charlotte. There are the lights that people string over their trees and bushes. Our neighbors across the street always write a word with the lights on their bushes; sometimes they say "joy" and sometimes "noel." Cleverly done.
But for me, the best lights are the candle lights that are placed singly in the windows of houses. One small white light standing alone in the face of deep, cold darkness. Last night, Kristiana and I placed our lights in the windows of the second floor of our home.
For us, those lights serve as a signal to those outside that we who live here celebrate the light that has come into the world. From the window sills, these lights are visible down on the street below and from quite a few yards up the street. The simplicity of it. The elegance of it. The power of it. Turn them on and our house appears out of the darkness.
Not only do these little lights shine for the people outside, they shine pretty brightly inside our house as well. Late at night when we are all in bed, those little 4 watt bulbs are almost enough to keep us awake. Last night, I had to get up and draw the curtains so that Steve and I could sleep deeply. It felt as though the full moon were sitting on our window sills.
Dark outside. Dark inside.
Light a few small candle lights.
Bright outside. Bright inside.
Yet another metaphor for my life.
Sometimes the dark clouds roll in, and I start feeling sorry for myself.
Why are we the only ones responsible for _________________?
Why won't anyone relieve us of these burdens?
Why did we have to get cheated by an unscrupulous lawyer?
Why don't we get a break on our taxes?
Why can't I figure this problem out?
Why doesn't anyone care about me?
Poor me. Woe is me.
Then I read a letter from a friend in prison who is serving a 27 year sentence, far beyond what was just and fair for the crime he committed. I read of his joy in the midst of prison, his faith, his best wishes for me as I traveled to Spain. I laugh at his reference to his "mansion and the security guards who make sure nothing is stolen."
Then I open a gift from friends from the Spanish congregation at our church: a beautiful blanket with our names inscribed and the Bible verse that says, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Their card said, "You and your family have been a ray of light in the darkness for many people." Deep. Humbling. Wow.
Then I read a blog about someone who heard a total stranger speak words of despair about the state of the world, and stop that man, take his hands in her own, and give him a blessing, offering up a prayer on his behalf. Not willing to be left out, that man's friend asked for a blessing of his own. (Check out http://jenlemen.com/blog)
Then I hear a song, read a book, go for a walk in our neighborhood with the children, listen to a message online (Rob Bell at www.mhbcmi.org/listen is awesome), sit out on the deck and fall asleep in the late autumn sunshine only to awaken to the sound of birds in chorus. These are the things that rekindle the flame of hope in my soul that self-pity and depression so easily snuff out.
And this little light of mine is relit. Shining again.
Often it is easier to be a light for those outside of my family, outside of my home. It's easy to give a word of encouragement to someone who has been abandoned by her husband, someone who is raising children alone, someone who is facing financial difficulties. It's far more difficult to give those smiles and hugs and uplifting comments to the woman in the mirror.
So this Christmas, in the midst of all the baking and shopping and cooking and reading stories to the children and blogging and the like, I promise to set aside time to consider the light.
To sit in the darkness when it descends and allow light to pierce it, to shatter the shadows, and shed light into the darkest places within me.
To consider the light of life, the light of the world, the light of all men and women.
I will sing about the light, write about it, ponder what it is to walk in the light, and sit in the quiet glow of the light in the window, the lights on our tree, and the light in my soul.
My wish for all of us this Christmas
is that we will all know what it is to be
called out of darkness
into His Glorious Light.