when christmas is hard: “look toward the light”
“finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” – phiippians 4:8
i don’t know about you, but i’m in a fog. friday’s tragedy coupled with so much going on here in real life plus the regular holiday craziness has felt bizarre. instead of trying to power through, i decided to accept the haze but keep trying to move forward one baby step at at a time. i had a post in mind for last friday as part of this when christmas is hard series (centered on “help”, “thanks” and “wow” from anne lamott’s new book) but it just wasn’t the right one. it’s still not. and that’s okay. the truth is i’ve written about gratitude so many times before, and it really does heal & help.
what feels more appropriate right now is the importance of looking to the light when darkness seems to be trying its best to pull so many under.
the darkness cannot win! but damn, it sure is trying.
at the refuge we sometimes do a labyrinth walk at different locations in north denver. every time, it is good for my soul. there’s something about the path & the twists & the turns & the quiet & the space-to-hear-from-God that always seems to be exactly what i need at that certain moment. at the summer labyrinth walk, i arrived scattered & tired after hearing the news of the death of my grandma on top of about 10 other hard things. things felt dark & tiring, but as i started walking, i heard these words “look toward the light.” in those moments, i just take it as God trying to show me something, so i listened. and each time i made a major turn on the path i intentionally stopped, and turned my whole body and head up toward the sun.
“look toward the light.”
each time there was a big curve on the path, i stopped yet again, and looked to the light. i felt the sun on my face. i felt the light seep into my skin. i felt what was true, noble, pure, lovely slip back in. i felt God.
i looked toward the light a whole bunch of times that morning & when i left, my head was higher and my shoulders were less slumped.
in october, we did a full moon labyrinth walk at a local church. it was a cold and crisp night and i almost didn’t go. i felt the same thing this time, a draw to stop and look up, except that i turned toward the moon instead of the sun. i turned my face toward the sky and reflected on the light–the good things that did exist in the midst of the bad, the beautiful slivers of hope & peace & love seeping in in the midst of the ugly & hard & painful things in my life and the lives of my friends, the light that somehow shines through on dark nights if we strain to see it.
light is powerful. light is healing. light is hope. light is what is right, true, noble, pure, lovely, and praiseworthy.
“look toward the light.”
but looking to the light is not easy. the darkness is a draw. head down, shoulders slumped, burdens heavy–oh, the pull that direction is sometimes so strong.
yeah, looking to the light means taking the time to stop, to beckon our heads to look up, to turn our hearts and minds and bodies toward the light, to soak in the warmth that even a sliver of light can provide, to remember what’s good, what’s true, what’s noble, what’s pure, what’s lovely. to meditate on those things. to remember the small graces, the warm smiles, the unexpected kindnesses, the things that are instead of the things that aren’t.
this month at the refuge we have been talking about Jesus as light–as truth, as hope, as presence. it’s been really good for my soul in all kinds of ways, remembering that no matter how hard this world might try to extinguish the light, it can’t. Jesus’ truth, hope, presence will always shine through the darkness even though it might not be as bright and clear as we sometimes wish it would be.
every saturday night for advent we’ve been sharing this scripture as a closing blessing. it’s zechariah’s song in luke 1:78-79.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.
my friends, if you are hurting this christmas, i am not saying that looking to the light will change everything, but i am hoping it might help. as you look that direction, may dawn somehow break through as you remember what’s true, what’s good, what’s lovely.