January 7 is always a depressing day for me. It’s because it’s when the lights go dark.
It is our family’s tradition to celebrate the Christmas Season beginning with Advent four weeks before Christmas, follow the season through the actual Twelve Days of Christmas, with its culmination on January 6…Epiphany.
I love Epiphany for many reasons, but I admit my love for it began when I realized it was an excuse for why I could keep the tree up a tad bit longer. But aside from that, I love its symbolism. I love that (as defined above) it is ‘a sudden insight into the REALITY or ESSENCE of something, usually coming forth from some SIMPLE, HOMELY, COMMONPLACE occurrence or experience. Like the birth of the King of Kings IN A BARN, for instance. I also love its symbolism of Light… which probably explains why Caravaggio, known for his dramatic use of chiaroscuro, is my all-time favorite artist.
So as the end of the Season approached, I began getting a little forlorn. We all do it this time of year, don’t we? After all, it’s the let-down of the build-up. But on January 6, I enjoyed a precious time with my children as we celebrated the coming of the Light into the world, His manifestation to not only His own, but to the Gentiles and to the rest of the world, as represented in the three Magi.
After a word from Scripture about the Visit of the Magi, the children lit their candles, stated in their own words why they were thankful for the Light, lit some incense, and then dug into their King cakes to find who ‘got the Baby’ (which is their favorite part of Epiphany, naturally).
I was a bit sad that the Advent wreath had been lit for the last time this Season. And even though the night ended very late (especially for a school night) and I had a horrendously messy kitchen to clean, the night was ending well. I was basking in the Light, still smelling the lingering incense in the air, warmed by the lights of the tree glowing in the next room…but a little part of me was dreading the dark.
By the time the kitchen was clean, it was 12:47am. I know this because I looked toward the clock: had Epiphany officially ended? Was it January 7? Yes. How quickly had we gone from this…
So I turned out the lights, climbed the stairs, and after my nightly routine, fell into bed. Husband was out of town, so I got caught up in my thoughts as I lay there in my bedroom in the dark. Literally– but, ashamedly enough– also figuratively. Hadn’t I just celebrated the Light coming into the world? What kind of ‘little light’ was I shining if I am on the heels of Epiphany yet feeling the weight of the darkened world? But the reality is even though Epiphany happens, so does Darkness. Darkness happens. Children die. Young moms get cancer. Terrorists execute the innocent. Wives and husbands face betrayal. The races war. Disease dehabilitates. Our parents get ill and grandparents like James get Alzheimer’s. The list goes on and on and on. And you can easily fill in the blanks with darkness of your own, just as easily as the person next to you.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. ~ John 1:5
Hadn’t God just revealed this to me on the Eve of Epiphany, when He painted the sky, His very own canvas? Who else can paint it but Him? Who else holds the power to overcome darkness?
He created light, after all. And THE Light was with Him, in the beginning.
And “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
In him was life, and that life was the LIGHT of all mankind.
~ John 1:1-4
As I returned from the grocery on Sunday, I found Husband had removed the ornaments from the tree–carefully arranging them for me to box up later–and was in the process of unstringing the lights. He sheepishly looked at me, knowing that this would depress me. But even I admitted, it was time.
So yesterday I walked into the living room to begin packing the ornaments. (I didn’t get very far because they are still carefully arranged on the coffee table.) I paused to look at the strands of lights on the floor, and that’s when I started to feel this post. The lights had gone dark. Not only had they gone dark, but they were no longer plugged in. And it spoke volumes to me: Even though the lights may go dark in our lives, we must remain plugged in. That’s our only hope of ever receiving light again. For some, it can mean being plugged into another source — whether it’s family, friends, healthy relationships, or good habits. For me, it’s being plugged into THE Source, THE Light.
After I took this photo and glanced at it, I gasped. The Lights That Had Gone Dark remarkably resembled a Crown of Thorns. And then it hit me: The only time that THE Light ever went dark… was on the Cross.
“It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.” — Luke 23:44-45
Let that sink in.
The sun stopped shining.
But today the sun came up, just as it does every morning and has since the beginning of Time. Because there is light, and there will continue to be light, even though we live in the midst of so much darkness. And in this new year, I will not lay in fear of the darkness but will instead ask this question:
What if the Light had never come?
And I will be hopeful because He did.
“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” ~ John 12:46