Assistant Minister's Corner - Rev. Monica Dobbins

27 November 2017

Diwali – Advent – Yule – Hanukkah. In the hurried bustle of the holiday season, there’s so much to do that it’s easy to forget the common thread that links these celebrations together. Popular religious culture may argue about “the reason for the season”, but our bodies tell a different story. We have an instinctive urge to increase the light around us, as the earth tilts away from the sun and the darkness gathers; and in doing so, we acknowledge that the most true reason for the season is the desire to confront our ancient fear of the dark.

And so we haul our decorations down from the attic or up from the basement; we drape strings of light over the banisters and mantelpieces; we light candles, the more the merrier. The lights we light are not floodlights; they twinkle, like stars, indicating that we do not mean to banish darkness – only hold it at bay. (Although, in one neighborhood of the Birmingham suburb in which I lived, a neighborhood populated with many Indian immigrants, sometimes there were so many decorations for Diwali that they rivaled floodlights for sheer volume of brightness!)

We are modern people, and we know what is causing the change of the season. We know that it is not the work of terrible and capricious gods, but simply the earth turning in its courses, as it always has, as it always will. We know that darkness and light are two parts of the whole, and that the sun will not go out.

Yet we face real darkness all the same. Sometimes we tremble at the dire state of the world in which we have to live every day, a world in which evil seems to reign unchecked and heartless greed rules our political sphere, in which Jesus’ name is invoked with self-righteous pomp, yet the principles for which he stood are trampled like pearls before swine. It is so easy to become angry, bitter, and jaded, and to despair that anything will change. Darkness may even creep into our own homes, workplaces, or worship spaces, if we allow despair to overtake us.

One of my favorite songs of the season (which can be found in our hymnal, #221) celebrates the spirit of Hanukkah with these words:

Light one candle for the strength that we need to never become our own foe… Light one candle for all we believe in, that anger won’t tear us apart. Don’t let the light go out!

Sometimes we light candles to gladden our own hearts… and then sometimes, we light them in the hopes that we may gladden the hearts of others, even if our own light seems very dim. And then someone else’s light may brighten our own way. Gifts of goodwill and generosity, gifts that are not expected but increase the light all the same, may be what keeps another person going this year.

This year, as we light the candles of celebration – no matter what holidays you celebrate in your own family – let us remember to light at least one light for the hope of another person. All is not lost, no matter how deep the darkness. There is always more light, more hope, more love somewhere