Childhood Memory 1971
1120 Mayberry Lane, my beloved childhood home featured a sunken living room with plush brownish thick carpeting and ‘no-food-allowed’ furniture. Flanking the wall by the front door was a Baldwin piano with a large metronome, an egg-timer and a small white bust statue of Mozart, a supposed reward for all the tortuous practice. For twenty whole minutes each day, only fudged slightly with a deft advance of the egg timer, I HAD to practice piano. But other than that, the living room was off limits. Except at Christmas time.
A floor to ceiling Douglas fir stood next to the stone hearth fireplace densely decorated by an array of not fancy, but special family ornaments, clumped in spots consistent with our heights. (Aged 12, 11, 4, 1) The tree wouldn’t be featured in Home and Gardens, but from my eleven-year-old perspective, it was perfect. On the coffee table an advent wreath was displayed next to a manger which included all the figures in the Christmas story, plus extra farm animals for good measure.
On Sunday night during advent, the family would assemble in the living room, each kid assigned a duty. Of course we would squabble about who would get the coveted job of lighting the candle(s). In addition to candle lighting there was scripture reading, manger arranging and praying. We would end with all of us boisterously singing together a familiar Christmas carol. Our family service was brief and felt dutiful as I got older, but to recall it now, it was precious.
The Baby Jesus Mystery
One sunny afternoon, after piano practice, I spotted baby Jesus laying on the living room carpet. Odd I thought, but returned him to his proper place in the manger. But the next day, again Jesus had escaped the barn. After the third baby Jesus siting I reported it to mom. Like two detectives, we discussed the caper and who could be guilty but more importantly, WHY.
My little brother David, four at the time, was soon caught red-handed. Without any effort to be secretive, he carefully removed the figurine, squatted down and gently placed baby Jesus on a particular spot on the carpet.
Davids behavior was not menacing but rather thoughtful. Apparently, motivated by his recent understanding that Jesus was the ‘light-of-the-world’, David could not tolerate that baby Jesus would spend hours laying in the dark. Noticing a ray of sunshine streaming into the living room, David carefully moved Jesus to lay beneath it. And depending on the time of day, Jesus would lay on a different spot on the carpet. But David couldn’t keep up. Darkness would always prevail.
Isn’t that how it feels to us today? Darkness seems to be winning. 2020 has been the darkest of years with a relentless pandemic and pervasive unrest and hostility. Our culture is sinking and it can feel as if we’re circling the drain with them. Provoked by sustained and unwanted isolation, depression, addiction, domestic abuse, and suicides are dangerously high and getting higher. It takes such effort to keep our spirits up and we’re weary of trying. Darkness covers our land.
The Good News of Christmas
Thank God Christmas has come! Christmas is the good news of God entering into our darkness. Because God knew we couldn’t keep ahead of it, Jesus was born, to be the light of the world.
John 1:5 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
Consider this…darkness is not in an of itself anything at all. Darkness is simply the absence of light. Of course we are weary. We can’t do it apart from the light of life!
The Father’s Love
I think of it like this. Imagine that you’re a child afraid of the dark. Your loving father picks you up, embraces you, and assures you of his unconditional love. Once secure in your father’s love, together, you re-enter the dark room and turn on the light. Fear vanishes. Don’t you get it? Everything starts and ends with the Father’s love.
When illuminated by His light healing can begin in your own dark heart. And then, His light isn’t impeded from shining brightly within you.
CS Lewis wrote, “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” The light of Jesus allows us to make sense of everything else.
The Antidote to Darkness
Today as I write this, is December solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year. No one would argue that a blanket of darkness covers our land. But, because of that first Christmas, the glory of the Lord shines upon us. We don’t have to fear the darkness, as long as we’re secure in our Father’s love. We know how the story ends. And we know the path to victory. The more we allow His love to impact us, the brighter our light can shine.
John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
At first others may hate the bright light, but don’t worry. Like mosquitoes, they are still attracted to it. Let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine!
Dear Father, We praise you for your AMAZING love. Thank you for coming on Christmas to be the Light of the world. During this Advent season, forgive us for either fearing or ignoring the darkness. Help us to see that the same Light that was born on Christmas 2,000 years ago can shine in us today. When we grow weary, remind us of your love and strengthen our hearts. And where there is darkness, embolden us to be light. Amen.