Every year at Christmas, I wait for a certain feeling to reach me.
It isn’t that presents-beneath-the-tree excitement that Christmas morning used to bring me as a boy. Nor is it the fullness, both literal and figurative, that Christmas night now delivers, as we gather with our family and stuff our mouths with cheer.
It’s harder to put a finger on than those feelings. It’s the sort of feeling you have to sneak up on, or that more likely sneaks up on you.
I associate it with a mix-and-match batch of memories:
- Of curling up in the big blue easy chair in my parents’ house on Christmas Eve, just a few feet from a crackling fireplace where my mom had hung the stockings with care
- Of sneaking downstairs with your mom and my dad to assemble a “Barbie dream house” for you girls
- Of looking up on a clear December night, spying the constellation Orion, and suddenly realizing that–whatever the literal truth of the biblical Christmas story–shepherds watching their flocks by night thousands of years ago would have seen the very same stars
- Of standing in a church sanctuary, with the lights off, singing “Silent Night” together a cappella
I also associate the feeling with a Bible verse that never fails to reach me: “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:5).
It’s a verse that’s often read on Christmas Eve, though it’s just as relevant anytime, really. It’s about light, of course, but not just the literal sort. It’s about the sort of light that’s the purpose of human life, the center of meaning. It’s an utterly mysterious light, the light of all creation and creativity. But it’s also deeply familiar. It’s the sort of light that builds a fire and hangs the stockings on Christmas Eve. The sort of light that skips out on sleeping to make a little girl’s dream house come true. The sort of light that turns stars into constellations and links stargazers across all ages and nations. The sort of light that suddenly flickers and bends and builds when we all sing together, darkness be damned.
It really is the sort of light that darkness never yet comprehended. And whether people call it “Jesus” or “love” or both or neither, its perpetual return is the promise/hope/joy/love that lies at the heart of Christmas.
That’s the feeling I wait for each year–the feeling of a light that doesn’t cast shadows but passes right through me. And it has never yet failed to reach me.
There is light in the world today. I hope you feel it. And I hope it forever finds you, wherever our journeys may take us.
I love you,