Light a Candle
“Hope is the embers still smoldering beneath ashes when the fire appears to have burned out.” -- Greg Evans
It is no coincidence, I think, that winter holidays from different cultures incorporate light. Winter is a dark time of year. In most places, the days are short and chilly, and the nights seem endless. We feel the darkness, especially recently. We fear for our jobs, our homes, our retirement, our children’s futures, our world. We wonder when, or even if, the night will end.
So each winter, we light a candle on the menorah or the kinara or the Advent wreath. Even this small light begins to dispel the darkness, and reminds us that morning always follows night, spring chases winter away, and darkness does not last forever. The dawn may not come quickly, or in quite the way we expect, but it will come. In the Christian tradition, the first candle of the Advent wreath symbolizes hope. Hope is more than wishful thinking. As author Greg Evans’s definition above illustrates so beautifully, hope is based on something real, something powerful that will not be extinguished.
It is in dark and uncertain times that hope is most important. Our holidays remind us of that. Advent is a season of preparation before Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. He came to a world full of hurting people where God had seemed silent for so long, to bring hope, love, justice and redemption. Eid al Adha commemorates the darkest moment in the life of the patriarch Abraham, as he was about to sacrifice his beloved son in obedience to Allah. Instead, Allah intervened at the last moment by providing a ram for the sacrifice, ensuring the continuation of the family for which Abraham had hoped so long. Hanukkah remembers the rededication of the temple, after the defeat of a cruel dictator who had oppressed and killed Jews, and desecrated their holy place. Though the menorah only had oil enough for one night, it burned for eight nights, a reminder of the light of God’s presence. Kwanzaa uses the candles of the kinara to celebrate the values of African-American culture that even dark centuries of slavery and segregation were unable to destroy. Each holiday recreates the story of light’s triumph over darkness, of God creating hope in the lives of people who feel hopeless. It is a story as true this year as it has ever been.
God of Light and Hope, guide us. There are so many uncertainties in our lives at this time, God, and it scares us. Please light our path, even if it is only one step at a time. Thank you for the gift of hope. Help us to place all our hope in you, especially when things look hopeless. We trust that your light can outshine any darkness. Amen.
-- Chaplain Stacy N. Sergent