My Dear Friend,
When I woke up on Christmas morning, I thought of John 1:5.
It was a rare gift for me to have only one thought, not plagued by a system of worries and threats and to lie awake — even for a short time — with just this one thought.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
With these sacred words — the beginning of this Good News — I am reminded that in this northern part of the world, although the shortest day has passed and the holiday lights taken down, the street lamps continue to turn on, lonely, at 4 p.m. Though we are slowly beginning to see a return to the light, these long nights will persist for a while.
The holiday hype is fading out there and with it the Christmas-related anticipation and anxiety that has very little to do with Love Incarnate (also known by some as Jesus Christ) or the Light coming into the World. I am drawn to the faint winter light. With limited distractions, I long to go deeper into the mystery of what Christmas is all about, into the power hidden within ultimate vulnerability. And to explore these depths without fear.
Some angel somewhere said not to fear. And that is why, a bit miraculously, my faint heart also goes out into the dark. It goes to those places that seem to capture little warmth, whether it is to the neglected corners of this city or those navigating the troubled spaces of their hearts and minds. It is in these places that I find the infant divine, the infant who consoles me when all the while I’ve been criticizing my arms for not being long enough for the whole world.
Because my tired eyes have grown so accustomed to the darkness, that is where I am temporarily blinded by the brilliance of those newly-opened baby eyes.
Friend, I know that you, too, have not been a stranger to this darkness, that your body and brain get wrapped in it while night sleep eludes you. I am trespassing into this familiar space of yours to risk telling you something you already know: no matter where you or I stay or go, the darkness is never complete — not in those most dire conditions you imagine now, and not in this basement room in which I write to you. We believe it is dark when we lie down, and in a moment, we can see something — familiar shapes softened to their most essential characteristics. It is only completely dark if you close your eyes.
So perhaps now you labor with eyes shut, or a sheet over your head, in order to pass through hoops or atrocities. But when the Dawn comes, you will not have to shut out or shut up the Light in this way.
So confront, even let in, whatever darkness you like: your flame will never be completely extinguished, because you did not create the Light within. You were born into it.
You will be closer to it and closer to yourself. I will believe this for you. Even if you can’t right now — if it all seems so platitudinous that it turns your stomach — I will smirk or even smile on your behalf.
So now the Sun is coming up, and I can see far enough to believe, to know, that I will not be standing in the same place tonight. There is an infant out there crying, and there is an infant within me, needing to be fed. He does not look anything like what anyone in my life thought he would, all soft and pink and swaddled in new clothes. Some might even say he doesn’t look like me.
But I think he is brilliant.
This Jesus, this new Light, in your world and mine.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angela Paviglianiti practices social work in Chicago where she also completed seminary; however, she has not yet mastered divinity. On Tuesday and Thursday evenings, you can find her at The Fireplace Community, and on other days, you can usually find something she forgot there.