She was drawn to the light. We all were.
But our littlest got there first. She dashed toward the candles, toward light.
All around the world — across all languages and nations — light is the metaphor for everything we need: Hope, salvation, better days, answered prayers, miracles, purity and flickering promises. Each flame danced, to prove the darkness penetrable.
She stood in the shadows of the light, because that’s how it is in these dark places on planet Earth. You do a lot of standing in shadows, even when you’re doing your part to make more light.
At first, shadows can seem scary. But they aren’t really, when you think about it long enough. They aren’t scary when you realize that the only way a shadow can exist is because a light source is close enough to cast it.
So there we were, standing in quiet pockets of shadows, and rows of red-bathed light, feeling hopeful because we knew about the difference between light and dark. And we wanted to be a part of it, like we might be part of a small miracle, shoulder to shoulder.
“Can I light one?” she asked her dad, with her eyebrows raised.
We’d come to the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, Arizona, two days after Christmas.
2012 is almost gone, and the year needs to be remembered before we move on. So we lit candles for the parts of 2012 that hurt: the ones we grieve, who weren’t around our dinner tables, whose shoes aren’t at the back door any more. We whispered prayers for friends who yet suffer. And we lit candles for what, God-willing, is ahead for us: a trip to Haiti, a good year on the farm, our health, our spiritual journeys.
And I said a prayer for you, friend — you, standing in the shadows.
The light grew for us a little bit up in that chapel, in that holy house jutting out from the red spires. God is, at heart, a sculptor and creative genius.
The room grew brighter — one teensy bit brighter — because of a few flames.
And that’s always the way with light. Teensy bit by teensy bit. One little flame at a time. Your light matters, friend. Let it shine.
You remember how it all started right? Our story on Earth?
In the beginning, darkness was here. And God knew what he needed to create before he made anything else. Before people or oceans or mountains or armadillos or peacocks or belly buttons or Diet Coke or red rocks of Sedona, He spoke it into creation: LIGHT.
It’s in the opening lines of the story: “Let there be light.”
Darkness was here first. But God’s declaration was the first proof that even if darkness came first, it isn’t automatically declared the winner. Maybe you could call Light a come-from-behind victory, busting up all that darkness. And the Light is still and always coming… like the dawn.
Through all time, when dark seems impenetrable, we’ve been drawn to light. We reach out for candles, letting them shine up our whole face on a mountainside chapel, or in a Christmas Eve circle, or at a vigil in Connecticut, or anywhere that the darkness is trying to stake some false claim over who we are becoming.
So we hold light in our little hands, a defiant protest to the darkness. And we want to share it. We hold out a candle, to pass the flame to the person next to us, not to create some kind of romantic ambience or impress the crowd.
But because we believe.
When darkness creeps, we pass candles, like it’s another way to say, “Here, you will be able to see better with this.”
Today, I pass a small light to you, my friend. I know that it’s true. Light, as from a candle, is the one thing that can be passed on, flame to flame, without having to lose anything of itself. It only grows.
In the year ahead, I pray that you may illuminate your part of the world, a world begging for more light, everywhere.
It has been said that it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. I believe that for you, and for us.
As we left Sedona, leaving that glorious chapel on the hill, Scott looked in our rearview mirror, and told me to look back once more. He told me to see how the light had come down through the clouds to light up the side of a red mountain that had been left in shadows moments earlier.
I turned to see it, to see all that light illuminating what might otherwise be left in shadows. And I watched it, how a few rays, a few glorious rays, can light up a world of shadows.
“I am the light of the world.”
~ Jesus Christ