John 1:5: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” NRSV
So hey, y’all…. I decided to start a blog as some sort of devotional. On Sunday, one of my pastors encouraged us that 2013 could be the year we start spending more time doing daily devotions. Several times I have started following a daily devotional and quit by the second week (if I make it that far). This time, I decided to *write* a daily devotion, which would encourage me to (hopefully) ponder spiritual things on a regular basis. I’m hoping that writing it as a blog will make it more interesting for me to continue. Plus then I get a page on which I can share links to my friends and I in a YouTube music video. (Caveat – life is busy and such, so I don’t really have an expectation I can write and share deep thoughts daily. But I’ll try to get here often).
So here’s my deep thought for Christmas night…
NOTE: In tonight’s post, I want to be open in sharing my depression because I think there is value when we share our common experiences, in part because we realize we are not alone. But please know that I am safe, and well. I have a wonderful support network and am seeing a psychiatrist. Also, my sad period has passed. But if you are feeling blue or depressed, please remember you are loved, please reach out to your friends and loved ones, and if you are thinking about hurting yourself, here is a list of international suicide prevention resources.
AND now for my deep thought… for reals…
The Christmas season can be hard for people who are grieving – it seems that Santa’s elves must have a magic dust that magnifies sadness over the loss of a relationship, health or job, the death of a loved one, or the reminder that our life is not going the way we expected, planned, or hoped. Nationally and in our families, the times can be scary, especially with economic uncertainty, senseless violence, and a fear of the unknown. I’ve been posting on my Facebook page a few posts about my own “Christmas blues” and have appreciated the encouragements and affirmations I have received.
Depression is a liar, as Jenny Lawson reminds us so well. For me, once it lifted on Christmas Eve, I realized that it was as if a dark cloud had settled over me, magnifying my negative feelings. One night this week, I spent some time crying. I felt alone, but kept wrestling with that feeling because I thought that I should know that God was with me. I kept reminding myself that God was present, but it was hard to accept.
At the candlelight service for Christmas Eve, last night, I still didn’t feel terribly “Christmas-y”, whatever that means. But I was struck by the verse in John 1:5: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” I was in front, as the assisting minister, when we all lit our candles and sang Silent Night. In the darkened sanctuary were over a hundred small candles, which caused a beautiful glow. (But then I wondered about how authentic I was in worship when I was worrying about details related to presents and food.)
The good news of the Christmas story is that God chose to be with us in our human experience, and all the messiness that entails, even when our mind wanders or we cause drama or keep making mistakes. God sees value in our existence, even if we don’t see that value in ourselves (or in those around us). God sees the beauty of each of our candle flames.
On Christmas Eve, I was reminded that we may not see it or understand it, but we are loved. Capital-L Loved. I don’t know the answer to the question of why God allows suffering, but I know that we are not alone. One of the names for Jesus is Emmanuel, which means God With Us. Even though our vision may be obscured by the dark lies of depression or the depths of our sorrow, we are not alone. Though the night seems long, please look for the pin pricks of candlelight. What are the small ways you see the light of love or shared humanity in the other? Maybe these pictures will help.
For me, on Christmas Eve, I tipped my unlit candle to the lit one next to me and my candle flame joined the rest of the church in lighting up the darkened sanctuary. I want to share that light with those around me so that one day the whole world will know just how much we are loved, how valuable and precious we are.
May we begin to know, even on our darkest nights, that God’s love is here. The first candle has been lit and the flame is being shared. The light of love shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it.