This year I can’t just flip the switch to the Christmas tree lights when I get up in the morning. I have to go down into the dark to get to them. Our Christmas tree is in the basement.
But at least it’s not in the laundry room! It’s filling the family room.
One morning I decided to sit by the lights instead of my usual quiet place before starting the day.
I shuffled my way into the kitchen, put the kettle on, picked out some tea, chose my favorite mug, squeezed a little honey into the bottom, and waited for the water to heat. Come on . . . hurry up! (I’m so impatient.)
It took me three trips up and down the stairs to get settled with my morning companions: tea, Bible, journal, computer (only for writing if inspiration strikes), book, phone and earplugs (only if a song is calling to me . . . honest).
What a hassle. All just to see a little light.
My brother lives in Alaska and sent me this picture of the sunrise out his window one morning . . . at 11:30am! He watched the sun set a few hours later. Not much light for him this time of year.
But that’s not as bad as in the town of Utqiagvik, Alaska, formally know as Barrow, 330 miles north of the Artic Circle. The town of 4,000 is now beginning its 65-day period of darkness, known as polar night. I can’t even imagine. I could never live there.
I don’t like the dark and avoid it as much as possible. My father-in-law marveled at all the little lights I had around my house one year. And I’m not talking lamps. After surveying the place he grinned. “You sure do like lights—don’t you, Karen?” I grinned bigger and lit another candle.
This Christmas I have thirteen little lights to turn on and off around the house . . . as of today, that is.
I’m an early riser so mornings are dark, but I still expect to live out the day in the light. I need it. I depend on it. I would have a hard time—a VERY hard time—living in Utqiagvik! I could never live there! (Did I already say that?)
But sometimes darkness moves in on the light of day. Life shifts. Darkness comes—illness, broken relationships, wrong turns, regrets. Broken dreams dim the lights and if we’re not careful, can snuff them out all together. Abrupt shifts can be especially dark.
The dark can bring uncertainty and confusion. Try standing on one foot with your eyes closed. It’s hard to keep your balance. It’s hard to remain focused.
Dark is hard.
But despite the hard, there’s always hope for light even though it may take a while to dawn. (The people living in Utqiagvik probably know this the best.)
This year I’m having to go down into the darkness to get to the light. And sometimes the colder and darker the night the more brilliant the light. Check out those stars. It takes a lot of dark to see them shine.
The scripture we often hear at Christmas from the prophet Isaiah is fresh for me this year: The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.
A wiser, wonderful soul recently said to me: “Out of faith, hope, and love, hope is the most neglected. Hope needs to be planted so it grows. Hope isn’t outcomes. Or optimism. It is based in reality and faith.” Perhaps, hope is the one thing that needs the dark to grow.
This season I’m spending a lot of time planting and watering hope. When I ponder the One whose birth we celebrate this month—the true Light of the world—my hope grows because in Him there is no darkness. This eternal Light will someday rid the world of all darkness. For you. For me. For everyone who believes.
But until then, I will hope in the dark. Hope grounded in faith and the reality of that baby born over 2000 years ago.
You light a lamp for me. The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness. Psalm 18:28
Whether you share my faith or not, I hope you believe that there is more than meets the eye when standing in the dark. There is always Light to be found. Light always comes. It does. Don’t fear. He is there. Keep searching if you must.
It’s worth the hassle.
Here are some of my favorite books to help grow hope—for yourself and all the children you’ll enjoy those lights with.
Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. A timeless read for all ages with a free downloadable idea for making a Jesse tree. Twenty-five days of readings for the month on December.
Illustrations by Martina Peluso
(Sorry I didn’t tell you sooner . . . but if you get it now you’ll be ready for next Christmas!)
Absolute treasures you’ll return to year after year . . .
Wishing you Light in the darkness and growing Hope for the New Year!