January’s days are trickling past in a slow but steady stream. Advent, Christmas, and even the day of Epiphany are now over. Nonetheless, I find myself fixating on the Christ candle. Sure, I see it still lit in the wreath before our pulpit during Sunday worship, but more than that, I find myself pondering it on Mondays as I drive my kids to school and glance in the rear view mirror to see only their eyes above a face mask. And, I feel a yearning for its brightness on a dull Tuesday, while listening to election results in Georgia, or a Wednesday consumed by rioting at the capitol.
Again and again, I find myself longing to bask in the light of the Christ candle during the dim days of Michigan’s early January, and even more so after the unusually dark and dreary year we just slammed shut.
For so many, 2020 was hardship and hurt. Darkness was a heavy cloak, weighing us down.
And then, my family began to light the Advent wreath each night in December and slowly, week by week and candle by candle, I could see better. Until, on December 25, with the final brightness of the white, center taper I could see best of all. I saw Jesus, the light of the world, shining in the very center of all the darkness. And the darkness could not overcome that light.
We are at the start of another new January. January, and new years, and beginnings tend to hold hope. They are brighter, bolder, more expectant. Yet we’re sort of holding our breath this year, as though afraid of exhaling too quickly, blowing out the light.
We need the light.
Remember when a tiny nightlight could keep the Boogie Monster away? I do.
Have you experienced the way a flashlight steadies your racing heart in the dark, shadowy woods, or how a campfire draws you close on a dark, chilly night? I have.
Did you happen to have a friend living across the hall in college who hung soft white “happy lights” under their loft, and the tender, safe feel of them drew everyone in the hall to bask in their presence? I did.
Have you ever shared a candlelight dinner with family, friends, or that special someone? I have, and it tasted altogether better.
Have you lit birthday candles to celebrate life, or a unity candle during a marriage ceremony? Yes, I have too.
On Christmas Eve, because of COVID-19, instead of our traditional Candlelight service, our church gathered in cars with the service broadcast over the radio, and then lit milk jug luminaries to show the community that we are still here. To share the light.
Today, as always, I began my morning by walking our dog. The sky was a lugubrious gray, and there was patchy ice that I was watching for. My hands were cold. My mind was racing, chewing on a few assorted worries. But then, in a moment, the sun came out! That light changed everything. I became lighter and safer, and there was a little melody in my heart.
Oh, how we need the light.
During Advent I kept thinking about the phrase, a light at the end of the tunnel. I kept thinking about what it feels like to be in a desperately dark place and then see a light. Maybe the light is far away, in the distance. The walls probably feel too close, and slimy at that, but you can see the light. And when there is a light at the end of a tunnel, no matter how small, we cannot help but move toward it. There is direction, even if there is a long or treacherous distance to traverse. And in direction and movement, there is hope.
Even now, Advent and Christmas over, I am clinging to the light of the Christ candle.
Beautifully, the prologue of the Gospel of John opens by saying, “What has come into being in him — the word, the coming Christ— was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
Jesus Christ is our light and our life. When we turn the calendar to January, any year, but especially this year, aren’t we looking for life? And, doesn’t light quell the fear of monsters and shadowy woods, and provide safety for us, and warmth, nourishment, and unity? Light points us to these good things, to life.
So may we all cling to Christ, our light, today and all year.