There are those who decorate all at once, making a dramatic transformation from the everyday to the magically festive in the twinkling of an eye. But I hereby confess – I am not one of them. That is simply not me. (remember post “confessions of a plodder”?) My advent transformation is going to take a little longer than my neighbors’ successful transitions to all things Christmas. I am still waiting for the Christmas spirit to inspire me.
Although yesterday, I did unwrap joy and hope and they are now keeping me company as I anticipate the approaching arrival of Christmas in this time of COVID. Maybe some of my melancholy stems from my concerns of how COVID is going to impact the celebrating of my beloved holiday, Christmas. Christmas is naturally a time of many traditions, some specific to individual families, many shared by larger communities who have practiced them for centuries. Let’s face it, Christmas trees, gift giving, baking cookies, singing songs, Santa, sending cards, gathering with family and friends etc. are all shared traditions that have been with us for awhile now. And any holiday full of traditions is full of memories as well.
Christmas is a time of inescapable memories for me. I’m thinking it may be for you, too, dear readers. So today I switched out my pumpkin for a candy cane, literally. I took my stained glass pumpkin out of the window and replaced it with a stained glass candy cane. The candy cane has quite the story of its own as an official Christmas candy. Lots of symbolism, such as white for Jesus’s holiness, red for His blood (which He came to shed for us at the pre-appointed time) It is a hard candy reminding me that Jesus is the “Rock” of my salvation, the firm foundation for my faith. The shape is a shepherd’s staff or a “J” for Jesus, depending on direction. The stripes of the candy cane remind me of Jesus’s suffering. “by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) This simple candy points us to the true meaning of Christmas, even though we might not know its story.
I did something else today. I hung a Christmas lantern on my front porch. It is not just any lantern, though. This lantern hung next to the front door of my Mom’s house at Christmas for many years. I did not light the red candle inside, but it is ready. That’s what Advent is all about – getting ready. I have a long way to go. (don’t we all?) This lantern is more than a decoration, it is a connection to my Mom and to my past. Memories come to spend some time with me as I hang this lantern. They are inescapable but I welcome them, they are good ones. The sadness is not in the memories, but that so many in my memories are no longer here to celebrate with me.
My lantern is so old and rusty, very dull on the outside. It was my grandparents before it was my parents’ lantern. But when I light the candle, it will shine a light out into the dark night just like it has done for years. This is a dark time in our history. We need the lights of Christmas to remind us that Jesus came into a very dark world two thousand years ago, bringing His light into our world to dispel our darkness. Jesus very Presence is light!
“In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5)
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
The prophet Isaiah spoke of Jesus’s birth, though still centuries in the future, in these words,
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before You as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.” (Isaiah 9:22-3)
Do we feel we are currently living in the land of the shadow of death that Isaiah spoke of in those prophetic words? It is easy to feel as if darkness surrounds the events and the deeds of our days right now. Enter Jesus into the world! Enter the star over the stable! Enter the starry hosts singing their hosannas. Enter the lights of Christmas! We are remembering that Jesus came bringing His light into this world. That’s the reason for all the Christmas lights and Christmas candles. During the month of the year with the least hours of daylight (where I live anyway) we have all the lights of Christmas, on city streets, on homes, in windows, everywhere I look I can see these lights shining in the dark and be reminded of the event we are preparing to celebrate – the day the Savior was born and light came to live among us.
The light has come. I just need to let Him in. Prepare! Make room! The King has come! The King is coming!
“Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is He, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty – He is the King of glory.” (Psalm 24:7-10)
today, for Advent, I will light a candle, I will let His light shine . . .
sincerely, Grace Day