So This Is Christmas

One of the wonders of Christmas is its light. In the Northern Hemisphere, Christmas Day comes just a few days after the winter solstice, the “bleak midwinter,” the longest night of the year. We should be depressed by the darkness. Instead we revel in it because of the glorious light all around—on trees, on houses, in stores and public places. We light candles and stoke fireplaces so we can enjoy their warmth and light.

When it’s the darkest, light is a gift from the one who created it. As recorded in Scripture, these are the first words God spoke: “Let there be light.” By that simple yet all-powerful command enough light came to brighten and give life to our otherwise dark and empty planet.

Since that first day of creation, darkness has remained, not only in the world but also in the human heart. When the prophet Isaiah described the people as “walking in darkness,” he didn’t mean they were physically in the dark. They were spiritually bleak and without hope.

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Light Always Shines Bright When It's Dark

 

For reasons both comforting and curious, the loneliest, darkest, and coldest time of the year plays host to Christmas. The shortest day of the year is around Christmas making it the physically darkest holiday, next to New Year’s, on the calendar. So, the time of year when we are supposedly the most generous is also the time of year where we are fighting depression and good old fashioned darkness.

 

Yet, that’s when the light truly shines.

 

The current news cycle seems very dark and while I can go on various rabbit trails lamenting a variety of things, I am reminded that this time of year always gets dark. Lights on trees and holiday lights on houses, lining streets, or in the malls announce that something is different. Lights that flash and lights that look like impromptu runways accompany lights that spell out encouraging words and lights that point the way to shopping, restaurants, or special events. All of these lights come when the sun starts to set earlier in the afternoon.

 

So, yes, the world is dark. At this time of  year, it’s always darker.

 

But, that’s part of the meaning behind ideas like generosity, grace, and sacrificial love. “It’s a Wonderful Life,” isn’t about preserving a mobile, middle class life, but it’s about being attentive to the life we already have. What would it be like to bring light in to the darker parts of our world? Frankly, it’s not that difficult to ponder. We simply need to recall that generosity doesn’t go out of style and can be done all year long. Grace never gets old and everyone needs it. Sacrificial love changes everything and is always worth the effort.

 

As the days get shorter and the darkness extends in to our afternoons, lights truly do get noticed and truly do make a difference.  I’ll list a few quotes so  you just don’t take my word for it:

 

From William Shakespeare—

 

“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”

 

From Vincent Van Gogh—

 

“Those who love much, do much and accomplish much, and whatever is done with love is done well.... Love is the best and noblest thing in the human heart, especially when it is tested by life as gold is tested by fire. Happy is he who has loved much, and although he may have wavered and doubted, he has kept that divine spark alive and returned to what was in the beginning and ever shall be. 

Do We Live in a Dark World?

People who see the world as “dark” aren’t held in high regard. They are called curmudgeons, pessimists, even villains.

By contract, people who see the world in a positive light are considered optimistic. They’re the good guys.

Donald Trump’s speech at the close of the Republican National Convention was castigated by the opposition and the press as being “dark.” President Obama was so bothered by its tone that he felt compelled to reply the next day, “This idea that America is somehow on the verge of collapse—this vision of violence and chaos everywhere—doesn’t really jibe with the experience of most people.”

Taking politics out of this discussion (I know, that’s nearly impossible), this sunny statement by the president against the negative images conjured by Trump begs an important question, one that doesn’t concern only our time, but all of time, the way it’s always been, at least since the fall.

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First Consideration: Consider the Darkness

During this advent season, I will be writing about 12 considerations to ponder this Christmas.  Here is the first one, stay tuned for more to come. 

 The holiday season literally and voraciously swept in to Southern California this past week. It was announced with gale force, hurricane-esq winds up to 80 mph on Wednesday night in the valley where we live.

As we heard part of our deck lattice crack and fly off piece by piece, we watched flashes of green every five seconds light up our bedroom as we wondered if there was a wizarding war erupting or realistically if anyone in Monrovia would have power by the morning.

Turns out these transformers exploding took our power and over a quarter of a million others' lights as well. I had wanted to start this series on the first, but in classic recovering perfectionist style, with no power or internet the last couple days, I was forced to reconsider my plan in the in-between.

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