O glorious Dayspring, come.
The bright eternal light
and sun of righteousness,
on those who sit in darkness
and death’s cruel shadow, shine.
“because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).
“In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).
Luke 1:78-79; John 1:4-5
I put my daughters to bed by candlelight on Christmas Eve. All the electric lights are off. The little flame flickers gold in the dark. I listen to my wife sweetly singing, “Silent night, holy night . . .”. We lay the girls in bed and pull the blanket up just below their chins. Tuck. Tuck. They are so excited about Christmas morning that they can hardly stand it. We pray. “Good night, sugar,” I whisper, “I love you.” My wife and I lean close and kiss their cheeks, which are soft, smooth, squishy, and warm. “Merry Christmas,” we say, and “I love you” once more, stepping quietly to the door. Turning around, candle in hand, I blow out the flame; a thin, gray whisp twirls upward. All is dark. “Watch for the light, little ones,” I say, easing the bedroom door shut.
My wife and I are tired, but we stay up. We stuff the stockings with candy and fruit and little toys, and I leave a trail of mandarin oranges from the girls’ bedroom to the fireplace. Why? Because I remember as a child wondering at the trail of candy and fruit that lead from my bedroom on Christmas morning; Santa must have had a hole in his bag. My wife and I talk about how cute the girls are, all excited about Christmas, and set out the gifts. Before climbing exhausted into bed, I pause to admire the presents beneath the tree, looking so pretty, glowing silver and gold; fitting for a king, I suppose.
I wake before dawn. It’s dark and cold, as I feel it should be on Christmas morning, and I build a fire in the hearth. Flames flick and lick split logs, crackling, and oaken incense lifts like a morning offering. I make a pot of coffee. The girls will be up soon. They’ll be giggling and squealing giddily by first light. It will be great fun to watch them open presents. But it is quiet now, and the world is still under the night’s shadow.
Darkness. I think of those who weep at Christmas from loneliness, for the death of a loved one, or for the death of a marriage. I think of my uncle, the car wreck, the coma, and my aunt’s faith, “God is my strength, and I shall not fear.” I think of those sick with cancer, and the little ones caught in war at Christmas. I think of the forgiveness of sins, my sins, and my darkness.
O Lord, lighten this darkness of mine.
You are my light and my truth; whom shall I fear?
Send out Your light and Your truth; let them lead me.
Christ, the light of the world, my God, my exceeding joy,
I wait for You. I watch for You.
I want to remember that it happened once. Behind all the gift-giving, carols, and family traditions is a time and space truth, fact in history, tender and merciful. A light dawned upon those who sit in darkness and death’s cruel shadow. I want to see the light again that made me believe, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that life is for love and joy and peace; which, of course, it is. I look for a glimpse of the beam that, after all these years, still shines out of Bethlehem for those who watch like children, full of faith and humility. The day breaks. The Savior is born in a manger, Jesus, God with us. Watch for the light, little ones.
We hope you have a great New Year! Every Thought Captive will resume on Friday, January 13, 2023.