|Posted by Karen M. Wyatt on December 14, 2011 at 10:20 PM|
This year the material trappings of modern Christmas - tinsel garlands, shiny glass bulbs and bright green cardboard trees - began appearing in stores and shopping malls just before Halloween, which is earlier than I recall seeing them in the past. With the economy struggling for the fourth year in a row, retailers are desperate to squeeze every possible penny from the consumers’ thin wallets during this season of traditionally reckless and over-the-top spending.
After all, Christmas is a holiday made-in-heaven for merchants: gift-giving is the defining activity of the day and the current cultural norm is to purchase those presents, rather than offer handmade items or non-material gifts.
But this year I sense an uneasy tension in the shopping malls and department stores – so many unpurchased goods calling out for buyers; so many cautious shoppers reluctant to part with their money, yet succumbing eventually to the myth that happy holidays come in glittery (and expensive) packages.
We are caught in a particularly dark time this December, as the economy hovers on the brink of collapse, institutions falter under the burden of exposed corruption, political unrest sweeps the planet, and natural disasters occur at an accelerated rate. We do not know what the future holds – there is uncertainty all around.
But this is also a delectable time - this space of not-knowing – when there are no answers and the darkness surrounds us. Because the darkest night reveals that the black sky is permeated with billions of twinkling stars in the distance: stars of possibility, tiny lights of hope.
Christmas is the season of light in the darkness. For Christians it is the celebration of the birth of a baby who came to be the “Light of the World,” bringing heaven to earth. For others the holiday is significant because it falls just after the winter solstice, when the longest dark night of despair begins to yield to the hopeful light of day.
And none of us can avoid that sense of hope during Christmas. Hope appears everywhere: as twinkling lights on pine trees, lampposts, storefronts, house eaves, window frames, snowmen, crèches, palm trees and even reindeer on the roof; as candles on windowsills, alters, Advent wreaths, centerpieces and mantles; and as flames in hearths and bonfires that ward off the winter chill.
No matter how desperate the situation, the light of Christmas is abundant in our darkness. There is no shortage of the hope that is represented by that light, because hope is our nature, woven through every fiber of our being. And Christmas provides us with the perfect opportunity to see our own hopefulness shining in the midst of our time of despair.
Take a walk or a drive through your town tonight and marvel at the creativity of your fellow residents who have generously hung lights everywhere. Though we don’t know the answers or what the future may bring, the lights of Christmas remind us of our hope. Hope that the light that shines within each of us will show the way, for even the tiniest flame can overcome the deepest darkness.
This year we need Christmas more than ever to keep our hope alive and sustain us until a breakthrough comes. May you recognize your own inner light and may your happiness this holiday season come wrapped in the glittery package of the night sky, lit by billions of stars of infinite possibility.