It’s dark outside.
Of course, by now, at 8 p.m., it’s been dark for a couple of hours. These days, these late fall days of diminishing sunlight, we have to finish up our work and come in to the warmth and light of the house by 5:30 p.m. By the shortest day of the year, in just two weeks, it will be dark by 5, or 4:30 even, if it’s cloudy.
I don’t do well in the dark.
For one thing, I was afraid of the dark until I was 11 or 12. We lived in a house that was built into the side of a hill, so there were no windows in my room. It was pitch black even during the day, so at night, my parents left the hall light on for me.
But even now, the dark does something terrifying to me. All of my worst traits seem exaggerated in the dark: I am lazier, I worry more, I grow irrational and fearful. When it’s dark, I forget what my goals are, dreams become just something to do when I sleep.
Jesus knows we struggle with darkness. He knows that when the world is dark, all kinds of evil will prevail. That’s why He brought light into the world. That’s why He shines his light on us, exposing the evil, the worst parts of us, and cleansing them with burning, shining light. That’s why he tells us to set our lights on a hill and let them shine, rather than hide them under a basket.
It’s a dark time, these late fall and early winter days that lead us through Advent to Christmas. But in the darkness, light shines more brightly. The dancing flicker of the Advent candles and the twinkling lights on the Christmas tree shine more brightly when the sun sets and house grows dark. But also the hope we bring when we share gifts with the poor and the joy we bring when we spend time with the elderly during this season also shine more brightly in the darkness that encompasses so many people around us.
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
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