On the first weekend in November, my husband and I had to do something we hadn’t done in 22 years – set our clocks back at the end of daylight savings time. In case some of you don’t realize, Arizona does not need nor want extra daylight during the long, hot days of summer, so they opt out of this national bi-annual event. It had been so long since we went through the clock ritual that our first reaction was, “Who knew we had so many clocks!” And then we were surprised when it got light in the morning earlier than our bodies were prepared for. We might have gained another hour for sleep in theory, but our body’s circadian rhythms caused our eyes to open at first light, at which point further sleep was impossible. Eventually our sleep cycles adjusted, but getting used to the shorter days and long, dark nights was a different story. We had to walk our dogs earlier and earlier in the afternoon in order to be off the roads before it got too dark. We had to keep adjusting the timer on our outside lights to accommodate the rapidly encroaching darkness. Then I gradually became aware of a darkness creeping into my soul, too, a certain bleakness that is uncharacteristic for me.
After several weeks of this, I find myself looking forward to the winter equinox and the gradual lengthening of days. It is no wonder that the ancient Celts chose this time of year to celebrate the coming of the light, or that the early church selected December 25th as the day to commemorate Jesus’ birth. During this season of darkness, we are all looking for a little light. Darkness is not just a physical reality, but also an intangible entity that infects human hearts. War, oppression, mental illness, and all forms of human suffering grow from seeds of darkness. Such darkness is everywhere, sometimes so omnipresent that we forget to seek the light.
Yet I’m learning that when you seek the light, you will find it, sometimes even in the most unlikely places, because it is often most abundant and beautiful in the midst of darkness. I awoke one night in the wee hours and could not get back to sleep. I got out of bed and looked out the window to see a quarter moon shining brightly on a field of freshly fallen snow. There was a mystical glow that filled me with peace and wonder. Then I looked farther down the valley to see my neighbor’s Christmas lights shining through the dark. I began to think of other times and places where light came to me in the darkness, startling me with joy and delight – downtown Leavenworth, festooned with Christmas glory; the annual Lighted Farm Implement Parade in the town of Sunnyside, a quirky and delightful community celebration; the glow of many candles lighting the faces of worshipers in a darkened sanctuary on Christmas Eve. It is at these times that the quality of darkness changes and feels more like God’s arms wrapped around me, blanketing me with love, rather than the grim and depressing darkness I experience when I forget who I am and whose I am.
And so, as Christmas approaches, I hope that all of you will find the light that you seek, even in the midst of your own personal darkness, whatever that may be. I pray that God will bless you with moments of grace and love, and that God’s light will burst forth in astonishing glory, catching you by surprise and assuring you of the Divine presence in all of life. May it be so.