LIGHTING THE CANDLE
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even then the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
“I will just be glad when it’s all over,” a woman once said to me about the Christmas season. She was no Scrooge, but she had lost her husband that year. She dreaded trying to make it through her first Christmas without him. From my own experience of loss, I know how the “holidays” can be the “hollow days”. The empty setting at the table and that missing stocking on the mantle can break the heart. Words of an old carol come to mind: we have entered the “bleak mid winter”.
These are days when many wish they could fast forward to the new year. Whether struggling to cope with death, divorce, unemployment, loneliness or paying the bills, the holidays can feel so dark. And not only because of personal loss; 2020 seems to be filled with community and cultural loss. Right side up is increasingly called upside down.
In today’s scripture the psalmist David tells of darkness in his life that feels to him like “night”. For the psalmist and other biblical writers, darkness symbolizes death, the absence of God, and evil to the ultimate. All that fright we felt as little children when the light went out, pales to what we feel as adults in life’s dark nights. These are times we doubt God, wonder if He cares or if He even knows.
In this psalm David feels darkness sweeping over him, burying and hiding him from God. The man who had faced giants and put armies to flight, now shudders in his dark night of the soul. Then David thinks of how God’s presence turns darkness into light around him. While things are too dark for David to see God, he knows that God sees him!
In his book, Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning tells a story about a boy caught on the second floor of his burning house. All of his family members scramble out of the house, but the boy panics and runs back upstairs. Terrified, the boy screams from his smoke-filled room. Below on the ground, his father sees him, crying out, “Jump, Son, jump! I will catch you!” “But Daddy, I can’t see you,” the little boy cries. “I know”, the father shouts, “but I can see you!” The father can see his son, and that is what really matters.
David begins today’s scripture with his fear: “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me…”. But David refuses to forget in the dark what he knows in the light: God will make “the night shine like the day.” Even in the darkest times, David believes the Lord is his light and his salvation. David knows that God can always see him.
Dark times do not hide us from God or from His loving care. God will see us through, and make “the night shine like the day.” That’s my story too! God does lighten the darkness; He is the only one who can!
PALMS DOWN/PALMS UP
Loving Father, for some people Advent and Christmas are difficult and dark. We ask that your light and love break through their darkness, and through ours. Help us to be light to them through our quiet listening and gentle words. We lovingly name them to you right now. Amen.