Bearing the Light

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” Isaiah 9:2, Matthew 4:16

Just as the words of the prophet Isaiah are echoed in Matthew’s gospel, so too have these words been echoing in my heart of late. Sometimes it is just so dark. Do you feel it? Have you found yourself walking in darkness?

A few weeks ago I came home from work to a power outage. At this time of year with the sun rising late and setting early I’m used to bemoaning the constant darkness, but this brought a whole new meaning to the word. No streetlights, no soft glow of appliances, no light switch within arm’s reach. Just fumbling around in the dark trying to find the matches and the candles (usually reserved for “ambiance” but now quite essential). Then finally curling up in that woefully limited sphere of candlelight.

Darkness is limiting.

Of course, it was only a few hours and the lights came back on. The Christmas tree lit back up, the clocks all blinking, but I couldn’t stop thinking about those “people who walked in darkness”. In an era of constant illumination (to the point where we even have a term for “light pollution”) it’s easy to lose the message of that light coming into the darkness.

But there is plenty of darkness in our modern, “enlightened” world. We see it clearly, painfully, in the brokenness of our societies, our families, even ourselves. Now, 2000 years after that light of Christ broke into the darkness of history, we still know so much of the dark.

I love Christmastime. I love the trees, the wreaths, the lights on the houses up and down the streets. I love the gift-giving, the gatherings, and sipping hot cocoa out of a Santa Claus shaped mug. I love that we as a culture conspire to make this darkest, dreariest, coldest time of year a season of light and joy, and a time to come together. We need that light, and we need the presence of one another.

But sometimes all that light and joy and Christmas spirit just makes the darkness in our hearts seem all the more apparent. Where there “should” be joy we encounter our grief, discord, poverty, loneliness, fear. And that darkness can threaten to eclipse the light of the season: the light of Christ. 

If you feel a kinship with the “people who walked in darkness” around the holidays, you are not alone. But we must remember the promise, and look with hope for that glimmer of light. It is there, waiting to be found in our hearts, and the hearts of those around us. We who from our Baptism have received the light of Christ. From that moment we are sent on a mission to carry that light into the world, but we never carry it alone.

So if this season fills you with unfettered joy, shine that light, share that gift. Our world so desperately needs the radical joy of the Christian life. And the people in your life need your invitation into that sphere of light.

And if you come to the Christmas season this year “walking in darkness” keep your eyes open. Remember that it was the ones waiting in the darkness who saw Him first. The shepherds out in the night-darkened fields, the wise men with their eyes fixed on the stars, and each of us in the everyday darkness of our lives, waiting for that “great light”.

In truth, the Christian life is a journey through both of these moments. We are a people walking through a world in darkness, carrying the indomitable light of Christ in our hearts. Come, let us adore Him: in the hearts of our neighbors, in the struggles within our families, in all His many faces. Come.

Copyright 2019 Mary Conway

Mary Conway loves books, tea, and Jesus, but not in that order. She received her bachelor’s degree in English with minors in Business and Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. Mary works in accounting for a local nonprofit where her secret undying love for Excel spreadsheets is put to good use. She is a parishioner at St. Pius X in Urbandale.