Journey from darkness.....
It's cold. The days are growing shorter. The winds are bearing down from the north with a vengeance that belies the balmy temperatures of only a few days ago. It's the season of darkness and retreat to the indoors, at least for those of us in the northern latitudes. Every single world culture has stories that are told this time of year to bring hope, and to explain this annual retreat of the sun. In Greek mythology, Demeter loses her daughter Persephone to the underworld for half the year, her return to Earth signaled by the longer days and verdant greens. In the stories of the Northwest Coast Native Americans, Raven brings the light to the people by shapeshifting and stealing the light from the chief. Along with the stories, most of the world's religions celebrate the return of light during this season, whether we call it Christmas, Hannukah, Eid or Diwali. Since humans put words to their world, they have sought to express hope at those darkest of times.
Seeking the light is almost a primal urge. Look at any campfire, and you'll find those gathered around mesmerized with the dancing flames. When the moon is full, faces turn to bathe in that magical light. In my neighborhood, and many others, the lights right now are electric rather than solar powered, but they still draw our eye as they twinkle after dark. I enjoy looking at all the light displays I pass, but find those simple electric candles, flickering out every window of a home, the most compelling display, perhaps because they shine hope in their utter simplicity.
We seek the light, because the light is a symbol of hope. In my own family this year, even as we race toward the longest night of the year, we celebrate that a symbolic long night for our son is finally coming to an end. He's fought his dragon and come out victorious. In just four days, he will leave the family home in these cold northern latitudes, starting afresh in the sunny desert of Arizona. Sure, he's seeking a geographic change to help him through this next phase of his hero's journey, but it seems somehow appropriate that as he comes out of his own personal darkness, he hastens the return of light and hope by moving toward it.
For the past few years, we've asked nothing more than to have our son back, tossing out this "imposter" who'd taken up residence in his skin. Finally, this Christmas, we've received the gift of our son, returned to us, even as he spreads his wings and flies away. For those who share our faith, this is almost akin to the grander story of this season, the one that has a Son visit earth for a time before returning to his ultimate destiny.
Enjoy the season. May your darkness fade in the light of hope, whatever your spiritual path.