October falls into our lives every year. People bemoan the end of summer. “October already!” they say. “I can’t believe it. Where did summer go?” We are repeatedly amazed that time moves so quickly.
The daylight begins to diminish and we recall that just weeks ago the sun stayed until nearly ten.
Then it’s November.
We set back our clocks and lose even more light. Dark is sneaky, slick. It enjoys surprising us. Darkness can threaten our peace if we’re not careful. We are sleepy at suppertime and wonder if we can see things through until spring.
Fires, blankets, books, slippers, sofas, sweatshirts become our friends again as we settle in.
Darkness can paralyze us and keep us inside. It is hard to navigate neighborhoods when the black of nighttime is so far-reaching. It’s heavy and still sometimes. We can find ourselves melancholy and sad and wondering if the dark is permanent.
We know though it’s cyclical. We remind ourselves that we have much to give thanks for. Another year, another successful harvest. Another year coming to a close. If we squint and focus toward the future, we remember that spring will come again.
It’s in this darkest place, the darkest season, in which we pause to give thanks. We join family at our bounty-filled tables. For some of us, this is an overflowing of what’s built up inside – pure gratitude. For others, it’s forced.
And then. It’s December.
A light flickers.
Perhaps we first notice a small glow in a window.
Then another. A house here. A tree there. More and more lights appear.
In preparation for the Christ child, displays of little bulbs are hung. Reds, greens, whites, yellows – sparkling, twinkling, flashing. We see glimmering hope everywhere we look. It’s no mistake that we celebrate the holy birth in the darkest season.
Somewhere along the line, we can become fooled with the abundance of our celebratory over-the-top displays. We are so eager to dispel darkness that we do it ourselves. We want to save the world from darkness on our own. We want to make our own celebrations.
It becomes less about expectation and more about gratification. We fill our dark souls with our artificial beams of plastic sparkles.
No matter what we do, our grandest displays and our most expansive lightshows are just a switch away from becoming dark once again.
The Light, with a capital L, comes as a flicker. A baby. Born into darkness.
The Light that cannot be extinguished, no matter what.
That little Baby is the one True Hope. The purest form of illumination.
We say we know the story. We reenact it in church each year. We read it to our kids. We memorize it. And many of us do our best to beat back the consumerism and synthetic holidays that pervade our culture.
Even our righteously lit candles are nothing compared with the Light of that Baby who was born into the mess of a barn to a teenager.
And just like He came willingly into that unsavory stable, He comes to us. Always.
Right smack dab into our messes. Into our fake lights. Into our consumerism. He is at the malls on Black Friday. He’s there when we spend too much. He’s there when we can’t sleep. When we overeat. When we don’t want to join certain family members for Christmas dinners. When we buy buy buy. Overreaching our budgets. He’s there when we can’t forgive. When we sin. When we fall.
He’s there when we try to shine our own lights.
He has come. The Light has come! Right into the mess and stink and darkness of our stables, our lives.
He has come.