I’m in desperate need of light. Our part of the planet is winding down to the longest night pretty soon and I need some light. There are some people for whom the extra darkness presents particular problems. SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real thing that creates lack of energy, inability to concentrate, sleeping problems and, for some, depression. I don’t think I have SAD, but I would like to go where there is more light. I could become a “snow bird” but I can tell you, Arizona isn’t far enough south. I’m thinking that I need to winter in Australia or New Zealand.
One of the special things about this season of darkness, however, is that it presents many opportunities to find and to share a little light. It may not be a lot of light but sometimes the small flame of a candle is all we really need. Synagogues and Jewish households around the world light another candle each evening of Hanukkah to represent the memory of a miracle of lights. Christian faith communities light a candle of an Advent Wreath each Sunday leading up to the lighting of the Christ Candle on Christmas Eve. Some celebrate Kwanzaa when seven candles are placed in the kinara. Each candle represents one of seven principles that are remembered and celebrated. Some families put a light in the window or light a candle at a special time during the holidays to represent something or someone special.
None of those flames is going to chase the darkness of winter in the northern hemisphere. Candles can’t replace sunshine. However, a single flame can mean something to the heart, soul and spirit of an individual or a community in ways sunshine never could. A single flame can tie us to our history, to our faith, to our commitments, or to those who have passed from this life.
A single candle can’t do much to change depression, sadness or loneliness but many candles, each lit by an individual, can come together to create a gentle glow that warms the heart and spirit.
One of my favorite moments of being a pastor is Christmas Eve night when lights in the sanctuary are turned down and the flame from the Christ Candle is passed to candles being held by those in the pews. Watching the growing light and faces illuminated one by one always makes my Christmas season.
The question I have for you in this particular season of darkness is, who needs your light? Who needs just a little light — a single flame — to light up a tough time or a sad heart? A coat donated to someone in need is a flame. A donation of a gift for a child is a flame. A visit to someone in a skilled nursing facility or other senior living situation is a flame. We don’t have to change someone’s life. We just need to light a candle or provide a little light that can illuminate someone’s heart with hope and kindness.