As the season turns to winter, and night comes so much earlier in the day, I am searching for ways to bring more light to the dark corners of the house. This is why I have so many battery -powered strands of light, woven amidst my Christmas greens. There is a lighted garland, bringing a little cheer to the stockings hung along the stairway, bright colors tucked in along the snow people, soft lights that surround the nativity set.
When the girls were growing up, we created many advent rituals to celebrate the month of December. The Christmas tree and all the decorations would go up in the first week, but no lights were turned on.
St Nicholas Day, December 6th, was the day special cookies, candy canes and a new book arrived. Shoes places by the door were filled with chocolates and cutie mandarin oranges.
On the morning of St. Lucy’s Day, December 13th, one of the girls would help Tony light all the votive candles and place them in the living room. Then they would wake the rest of us up and we would sing our way down the stairs to the Christmas tree where it would be lit for the first time of the season. We would enjoy a special breakfast under the tree before school started.
This was the one event that was done twice when the girls came home from college. They always wanted the Christmas lights turned on and a special breakfast by the tree.
St. Lucy Day traditionally fell near the darkest night of the year, so it was a ritual called The Festival of Lights. It is so wonderful to see these rituals playing out now in our daughters' lives.
These days, with just Tony and I, it is tempting to just turn the lights on now, and not wait for a special day. Yet there is mystery in the rituals that can guide our daily actions. Where can I share a little candy cane joy with others? And where do I need to wait? To be patient for change? And can I see the light in this moment? There are always moments of waiting. Our job is to trust the process of the unfolding.
There is always a desire in life to push away the darkness, to move quickly through the things that are most difficult for me. Even when I am not feeling well, and I need to take more time to rest, I am impatient with myself, wanting to move on with life, not wanting to slow down and listen.
And yet, the mystery of the season is that there is joy in the quiet, if I only take time to be still and not fight with being-ness. There is joy in darkness, if only I take time to reflect on how I am never alone. There is always a loving presence that surrounds me and brings me peace. It is there for my taking- I just miss it sometimes in my rush to move past what is challenging.
So I am waiting- just as the children have to wait for Christmas day, I am waiting. I wait for our girls and significant others to join us for the holiday. I wait for the gatherings with friends. I wait for the lighting of the tree, and all the magical fairy lights that will brighten up our home. I wait for patience to grow in me so I might be a better listener and seek to understand those who are different from me. I wait for LOVE to come awaken in me that I might bring change our world.
I know light and love exists out in our broken world, among the people I greet, because I see kindness happen every day. Maybe I have been training myself to look for it, just by the nature of what I do. Watching a young dad interact with his little boy and ending with a smile and a kiss is a sure sign that love lives among us.
In this time of waiting for Christmas, the new year, and peace on earth, take a moment to see the light that exists right here, right now, within you, and see if you can’t bring a little holiday cheer to those who are most in need of your attention, and the human connection. Those chance encounters may be the best source of light and joy this season.