His Light is Our Hope
Growing up, our family would always travel for the holidays. My family lived in the Bay Area of California and most of our extended family lived in Southern California. So, each holiday, we would load up the Astro mini-van and make the six hour trek down I-5.
Back then, as a kid, I had two concerns:
1) which card games and books on tape did I want for the journey, and
2) did I want to sit on the back bench or middle bench in the van.
Christmas felt easy.
Once in sunny Southern California our days were full of relatives. Large family gatherings of cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles with green bean casseroles and jello salads filled our days. Family came from up and down the coast to gather. One of my most beloved aunts was Aunty Dorothy. With her permed blue-grey hair, black slingback heels with stockings, and iris blue eyes, Aunty Dorothy was everything her name would suggest; she bubbled with sugar-sweet kindness.
I loved seeing her at the holidays. As a teacher in her younger years who never had children of her own, she always spoke in a sweet, loving and kind kindergarten-teacher-like voice. It was a cousins race to the dinner table to see who could sit next to Aunty Dorothy. She was wonderful in every way; if you knew my Aunty Dorothy, you’d loved her. I can still hear her exclaim, as she opened the small gifts we gave her, “Oh My…Oh how lovely!”
Aunty Dorothy exemplified love.
I remember late one Christmas Eve, we were at Aunty Dorothy’s house and she called me over to her window to talk. She lived in the hills of Los Angeles; her living room had a large picture window that looked over the city. I was so young, I could barely peek over her window sill. I still remember how I would hold on to the sill with my hands and stand on my tippy toes to look out. She told me to look at the city, to see how dark it looked, and then to look at all the lights. She said that the light was all the good things in the world – love, hope, joy, and safety to the people.
I remember in my excitement I exclaimed: “Yes! They are fairy lights! Look at all the fairies!”
I remember the wonder, and the joy, and the magic of the idea of fairies lighting up the city. She giggled with me and with a knowing glance she said, “yes, Julie, like fairy lights.”
I would sit at that picture window a few more times throughout my childhood. The last time was as my grandparents cleaned out the home after Aunty Dorothy went home to the Lord. I loved looking at the lights glowing over the city.
The light truly shined brightly in the darkness.
To this day, I think of my Aunty Dorothy every time I see city lights shining. I loved our holidays with family growing up. As an adult I realize Christmas isn’t always as simple as deciding which card games and books to pack in your van. Anyone who has spent a holiday with underlying sadness or grief knows that even through the joy and wonder of Christmas, there can be an aching, a dimness, or fog that doesn’t lift when the elf on the shelf arrives.
Today I look at the lights and the darkness with a Christmas perspective.
See, for my family, the past few Christmas seasons have been, as always, full of relatives, decorations, and gifts. But these holiday seasons also held a shadow that clouded the light. In an effort to create happiness and joy around us, I felt the need to orchestrate celebrations of grandeur. Somehow I thought that if there was enough celebratory evidence around us that it might help hide or distract from the weariness that encompassed us.
In my best perfectionistic, get it done effort, we did Christmas, but underneath the candy canes, wrapping paper, and stocking stuffers there was a gloom that clouded the light.
During these years, the circumstances of the day threatened my faith.
But then, as each night fell and I would ready myself for the next day. I would see the lights. The Christmas lights on our tree, in our yard, and throughout our town as we drove to and fro; they filled me each evening with the hope I needed.
“And the light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.” (John 1:5)
I took hold of the promise that His light would shine through. The Christmas lights became a symbol of God’s promise to me. That even in our family’s struggles, His light would shine on. Jesus’ words are true! He said,
He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
For those few years, each night as I looked at the Christmas lights I was filled with His love, His joy, His peace, and His safety. Even though there was still a very difficult, heartbreaking reality around me, He filled me with His hope.
That’s what His light does.
Today, I can joyously say that my family has emerged from the shadow of gloom that threatened to obscure the light. I am celebrating and rejoicing that there is no great sadness or overwhelming worry in our home right now. It’s actually comical in a way – I have been accused of being a “bah-humbug” this year because I’m not putting out all 15 tubs of Christmas decorations.
I now realize that there is freedom to not manufacture Christmas joy around me by covering every surface of my home with glittery garland, candles and Santas!
In fact, I think I might break tradition and serve enchiladas for Christmas dinner; I don’t feel the pressure to produce a Christmas production like I have in years past.
I might not have brought out my entire attic of Christmas decos but I have put up an enormous number of lights this year! I hung the lights with glee as a monument and testimony for what we have walked through. Looking back I can see how His Hope gave me perseverance and the ability to keep my faith. This year I am celebrating His faithfulness!
“You light a lamp for me. The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.” (Psalm 18:28)
I am thankful.
So many years ago one Christmas Eve, Aunty Dorothy sweetly showed me the light in the darkness. While I thought they were fairy lights, I know now she was pointing me to the Light of the World. She proclaimed that the light was joy, peace, love, and safety over the city. Long after Aunty Dorothy died I met Jesus. Looking back, I recognize she shared a spark of Him with me. She started a conversation, planted a small idea in me, and the Spirit grew in me to know and believe.
“If we live in the light as He is in the light, we share what we have in God with each other.” (1 John 1:7)
This year as we decorate the trees, shop for gifts, and plan delicious meals let’s take time to see the lights. We celebrate the birth of Christ on the 25th, we gather together to remember His birth – the savior, redeemer, healer, reconciler, the Light of the World. If you feel more darkness than light this season, hold on to His hope, look to His light. If you are in a place of fullness, share His light with someone this season. All believers are called to proclaim His light to others.