They were buried in the back corner of the Christmas section of the store. I had to pass all the expensive, shiny, technologically advanced decorations to get to what I sought.
Christmas lights. Good old-fashioned cheap incandescent bulb lights. $5 per box. The price was right. I put them in the cart and passed all the pricy LED color changing lights and gigantic inflatable lawn Santas on my way out.
This is the first year I have owned my own home. It is also the first year that I am navigating the holidays, the family times of togetherness, without the center of my family universe, my mom. Money and spirit are both at low levels. Yet…I wanted a symbol of some kind that all is not lost. For me, that became a cheap set of lights.
Two days after a tough tear-filled Thanksgiving, I set out to string the lights on my small porch. I wasn’t into it at all, but I kept going. A clip here, a clip there, a plug…and there they were. They looked pretty raggedy and not at all impressive. But they were working, glowing and colorful in the growing dark.
I started to realize what is so important about light at Christmas. Sure, I always made the connection between the darkest time of year and the need to offset that with more lights to function by. And there’s always the relationship between light and warmth in the coldest season. And yes, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Light of the World, makes light a great symbol of the Incarnation.
What I see this year is that light equals hope. When everything around is dark and cold and lifeless, light fights that. Even if it is a just a tiny candle or mini incandescent bulb, it takes away darkness in its small vicinity. It does what it can within its power to eliminate what seems to be vast and endless.
Hope is like that. Even if it is there in the tiniest, almost non-existent way, it makes a difference in beating back the darkness of despair and sadness. Hope is powerful and the antidote to all things dark.
I know so many people dealing with huge struggles in their lives right now. Some have had moments of deep despair where things just don’t look like they will ever improve. I myself spent a few hours on Thanksgiving sobbing uncontrollably at a situation that will not ever change here in my lifetime. Loved ones don’t come back from the grave. Reunion will be in another time and place, a wonderful one. But that can be cold comfort in a moment of missing someone so badly that your body physically aches and you don’t think you can bear the pain of grief.
But we have a Savior who was born into humanity and experienced life’s hurts and disappointments. He knows our griefs and sorrows. He knows what it is like to weep at the death of a loved one. He knows what it is like to be betrayed by those closest to him. And He promises comfort for our pains and a glorious future. That’s hope personified.
So my little Christmas light display is my symbol of hope. Even if it is small and dim and imperfect, any little bit of hope is worth displaying in the darkness of a life at times overwhelmed with pain. Any little bit of hope shows that the Lord is holding on to us and keeping us in His grace.
Keep the lights shining this Christmas. Small or large, dull or bright, let’s keep hope alive even in dark places.