My husband and I had just finished a seasonal tradition we have tried to honor in our marriage of enjoying a quiet Sunday dinner with only the candles around the Advent wreath lit. The dinner was one I looked forward to, especially after a busy morning in the church with the excitement and energy growing as Christmas drew nearer.
On the night’s menu was locally raised lamb from a friend’s farm, roasted to perfection, and green beans from my summer garden that I had successfully blanched and frozen. They tasted as fresh as the day I picked them. I was quite pleased with myself.
After the last dish was rinsed and put into the dishwasher, we settled in the living room in front of the Christmas tree, still without ornaments thanks to my lack of energy and motivation to “do” Christmas this year.
“I am going to keep it simple,” I said to my husband early in the season as I strewn the fireplace mantles with fresh pine garland — and nothing else.
I had only been sitting for less than a minute when my peaceful bliss of a silent night was interrupted. Off went the candles around the Advent wreath, then our only source of light in our 18th century home. On went the electric lights. Off went the beautiful stillness of a December night. On went the television.
I sat for a moment feeling sad as the glow from the TV took away from the beauty of the one lone candle I did not want to put out just yet. Its flame was just so beautiful. So seemingly fragile against the harshness of light bulbs. So small and yet so capable of casting a mighty warmth in its path of light. There is such beauty in a little flicker of candlelight I mused.
Suddenly, the unexpected happened. Click, hum, buzz, whirl…lights went off, TV went dead, the dishwasher stopped. Then silence. Nothing but nothing to hear.
A whispered profanity came out of my husband’s mouth. I, however, rejoiced. For the one candle that I had refused to blow out, the one whose light was being overshadowed just a second ago by the television and lamps, the one that seemed like nothing much, had now taken center stage.
It’s funny how often our reaction to losing the artificial light in our lives is one of frustration. We fumble for flashlights and pray to God that our cell phones have enough power in them. And when we realize our gadgets don’t have enough power in them, fear seizes us.
Frustration and fear. Two words that can best describe how many are living today. And yet there were a people thousands of years ago living in frustration and fear as well. They, however, didn’t have alternative means of light to reach for. No artificial comfort or fleeting reassurances to flick on when the dark night of the soul came upon them. Rather they had to reach deep down into their very core to trust all the great unknowns in life were indeed known by a compassionate God. They had to keep walking in darkness, trusting the did not walk alone. They had to grope in the darkness with whatever faith was left, believing a light would shine upon them. And it did. The Christ light broke through and, as the prophet Isaiah tells us, “those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”
My lone candle burned brightly the other night. Its flame dancing for joy with a Christmas promise we in this “lights on, background noise blaring, rushing around” world need to embrace. When the darkness suddenly comes upon us, the true light in our lives shines on, never to be extinguished.