We do it during Hanukkah and Kwanza. We do it at roadside shrines or in the votive alcoves of Cathedrals. We do it at vigils for those we’ve lost or for causes we support. We do it at births and funerals, weddings and baptisms. We do it along the banks of the Ganges or in the heights of the Himalayas.
We light candles and lift them high!
In my own tradition, I treasure the Advent Wreath and Christmas Eve Candlelight celebration. My season isn’t complete without them, especially that moment when an entire congregation kindles its flames from the Christ candle and sings Silent Night.
I will never forget the congregation of my childhood – Hope Lutheran Church in Whittier, California. At the end of our annual service we would move outside to the parking lot, join in a circle and lift our voices to the night sky. I can still see the illumined faces of those who were part of my youth; they showed my family Christian love and charity throughout every season.
Would you agree with me that 2014 has been a particularly painful year? ISIS genocide and beheadings, a school bombing in Pakistan, the crisis in the Ukraine, the disappearance of Flight MH370, the Ebola outbreak, painful turmoil in Ferguson, the kidnapping of Nigerian girls. These are just a few of the heartbreaking headlines.
This Christmas, one verse from the Gospel of John keeps calling to me, like a bird singing in the night, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
I believe darkness will never triumph. Not because I’m naïve, but because I’ve had the privilege of knowing so many people of faith. They are pouring out their lives in hope that love will triumph as this planet’s greatest legacy. I have worked alongside them, prayed at their bedsides, held their hands in worship. I dream of unity with them every day!
In this world where the violent few get the lion’s share of press, I say “Alleluia” for the many millions more who are helping humanity evolve. WE ARE LEGION!
This season, no matter what our faith traditions, let’s lift our candles high in communion! Let’s proclaim that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will NEVER overcome it!