Saturday, December 24, 2011

Silent Night, Holy Light

The incomprehensible vastness of our universe is never felt more keenly than when we look up into the dome of a starry night. If the sky were a solid black, fear might consume us. Awe wins out, though, in the shining of those stars, those innumerable points of light. No words are possible, none are needed. Humility rises of its own accord, and all falls into its proper place.

Perhaps this is why the essence of Christmas has always shone most fully for me within the darkness of the night that precedes it. As a child, Christmas morning was all about the presents. The night before, however, we touched the sacred.

Though the nature of this experience changed as I did, light was always the entryway. Just as in a starry sky, in each of my Christmas memories it was the light shining within the darkness that proclaimed the holiness of this night.

As young children we’d pile into the station wagon dressed in pajamas and winter coats to travel through a world transformed. Enchanted, we’d ooh and aah at trees decked out, houses strung with colored bulbs, the occasional sleigh and reindeer on lawn or rooftop~~all awash in light, dazzling light.

If we hadn’t fallen asleep before we returned home, we’d sit in a living room lit only by the twinkling magic of our own tree and the single bulb within the nearby crèche. The delicate light within an otherwise darkened room brought that timeless scene to life~~the smell of sweet hay, the warmth of the gentle animals, Mary and Joseph, baby Jesus in his manger, angels watching from above.

As I grew older, Midnight Mass was added. Again, it was the light that spoke strongest to me as a plentitude of candles joined with the pungent smell of incense to transform our church into a place far more holy than it was on any Sunday morning.

Not all of us have such idyllic Christmas memories, however. The night sky is not the only darkness we humans confront. There is the shadow side of the human spirit that shows itself in Christmases blighted by poverty, drunkenness and violence, by spirits riddled with pain and despair.

And yet, light shines even there, as children find wonder in the smallest things and believe in magic despite the bleakness of their days or the horror of their nights. Children, it seems, are especially equipped to find light amid darkness. Maybe that’s why Christ loved them so and stressed our need to become like them. Finding light within darkness is perhaps a necessary trait for entering heaven.

While no one knows the exact date of Christ’s birth, the early church chose well in picking a time close to the winter solstice. As the turning point in earth’s journey around the sun, the solstice is always a celebration of light. What better time to honor Christ? Light incarnate. True Light from True Light. Bodhisattva, Enlightened One.

On this Christmas eve~~this silent night, this holy night~~let us open to the Light streaming forth. Let it shine within our joy. Let it shine within our darkness.

Light.

Let it shine…

Let it shine…

Let it shine, shine, shine!!!

A belated Happy Hanukkah!
A belated Happy Solstice!
Merry Christmas!
Happy Kwanzaa!

No matter the tradition you honor, I send you wishes for a transformative New Year! Hold onto your hats~~as well as your centermost point~~as it promises to be a doozy!!!

Love,

Loanne Marie





2 comments:

Monica Wood said...

You know how some people decorate their house/yard/trees with blue lights? It looks so somber, always makes me hum "O Little Town of Bethlehem," and, for me, represents the essence of Christmas: a somewhat solemn affair that embraces winter, faith, and the bittersweet nostalgia of a Catholic childhood.

Loanne Marie said...

Funny you should mention blue lights, Monica. I had intended to mention our across the street neighbors' Christmas decorations~~two HUGE stars, wooden frames hung over each large picture window on either side of a center door. And, of course, lit with blue bulbs. Talk about a sense of magic! Somehow, that image didn't make it to the final essay, but those stars shine for me still.

Thanks as always for writing!

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Blessings!

Leia Marie