In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. - John 1:4-5
During my first year at Seminary, I went home for Christmas, in Oklahoma, which would turn out to be the last time I saw my father alive. I was having a difficult time coping with the conflicting feeling of the joy of the Christmas season, and the grief I felt as I was reminded of that last Christmas I had before my father died in February. I had been visiting Crescent Hill, and the litany for Advent for lighting the candles was, "We are reminded by the darkening of the days through winter that God has sent us a Great Light and the darkness could not overcome it." Throughout the service I was captivated by the window decorations of a lit candle, with a small dead branch and a small branch of holly at the base of the candle. This became a comforting image to me of the light in the darkness with the dead branch and the thorny leaves of the holly representing the paradox of Christ's suffering passion which gave us the joy of new life. I later attended a bereavement service during Advent for those of us struggling with the grief of the joy of Christmas, which helped me to heal even more. I learned how to honor my feelings of grief and loss with a richer depth of gratitude and joy. I identified with the melancholy longing and hope of the promised Messiah, along with the joyous celebration of the light that shineth in the dark Bethlehem streets.
Thank you, O God, for the everlasting light of the hopes and fears of all the years that were met in the dark streets of Bethlehem and the revelation of a new image of comfort and joy in a window in Louisville, Kentucky. Amen.