The longest night of the year is upon us in the northern hemisphere, and I can’t wait. Not because I like the darkness; rather, I’m encouraged by the turning point. From that day on, our half of the world is headed toward more brightness and warmth.
We’ll get a little more of the light each day. Imperceptibly and inevitably, we’re headed in a brighter direction.
It’s a good reminder in this season. One of the most beautiful passages from Isaiah and Matthew reminds us that people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. And the light is never extinguished. It lives on through us, with us, and in us.
It doesn’t feel that way in times like today. We feel a deep darkness in our world and in our society right now. We can almost taste it, touch it, and smell it. This darkness invades our souls like a damp, long, December night, bringing a chill all the way inside.
But it’s not forever. There always comes a turning point. It’s been that way throughout human history. Dark ages are followed by times of illumination and growth, both in our personal and our collective lives.
In my life, I’ve experienced this darkness-to-light cycle many times. I grew up in the 1960s, a dark time when our society was divided over war, civil rights, women’s rights, religious posturing.
We had prophets, assassinations, and convulsions. We wondered if everything was being reduced to rubble. Eventually, we emerged from the darkness and we grew, led by people who lighted the way. The moral arc of the universe bent a little more toward love and justice.
Now we’re back in a dark time. Massacres stain our streets, our schools, our malls, our parks, our nightclubs. Neo-Nazis and white supremacists march arm-in-arm with supporters who consider them very fine people. Religious leaders urge congregants to remove their values and get in bed with politicians who do evil things to children and women.
The powerful and wealthy have descended like a plague of locusts, gorging themselves on everything. They leave little behind when they move on to some other area of our society that they can consume, displaying no sense of responsibility or remorse for their actions.
We feel the chill in our souls. We taste the darkness all around us.
It’s important to remember: It’s only temporary. The light is still there – dimmed but never extinguished, ready to warm and lead us all over again, if we let it.
Christians are preparing to celebrate a life that was a light in the great darkness. Jesus’ compassion and healing warmed damp souls and helped people recognize how much they were embraced by a love that can change their lives and their world as well, if we accept it and work with it.
His message: Take this light and make it your own. You are the light of the world. You’re the candle; you’re the wick. Go and be the light. Don’t hide under a container, keeping the light to yourself.
Light the way through your daily kindness and love.
Unlike our seasons, which are naturally regulated, our human cycles of light-and-darkness last as long as we allow. We decide whether to bring a little more light into each day by how we live, love, and heal.
People of the light are the ones who bridge divisions, diffuse conflicts, shine a bright hope into the darkness that is never completely dispelled but can be overcome. They persist in pushing back against the forces of darkness.
In our own ways, each of us can be a bright star in the dark sky that provides others a way to navigate. We can be a rising sun that disperses the darkness for another day. We can be a fireplace that brightens the room and warms the souls of all who gather with us.
In this time of great darkness, we need to be the greater light.