My family has been turning out every light in the house this December, welcoming the darkness.
Then lighting a candle. Watching the light blaze across the darkness. Then, filled up from the light-life, we blow out the candle and sit in the darkness again. Here is some of what we've seen and felt as we've practiced welcoming the darkness each night.
The darkness wraps its arms around the earth, the longest reach it will have for 365 days.
The darkest day of the year.
The most darkness,
the deepest blackness,
the longest suffocation from daylight.
“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).
For in a night of darkness,
a century of violence,
a baby's cry broke through.
If the night was not so dark,
The silence not so tall,
The world's suffering less deep,
Would we hear the newborn baby's wail?
If not for the darkness, would we see the light breaking through?
For those of us who have piled light onto more light, decking our lives with more goodness, more security,
Draping ourselves with “healthy” people who will bless us as they gather around our tables and rub shoulders alongside our children,
How can we see God’s saving light when we are drowning in our own brightness?
Our own Rightness?
Megawatt smiles, shining upon LED sparked opinions,
building beautiful borders
keeping in the people who light up the same way we do,
and all others out.
Without the darkness, how do we see the light?
How can we catch the light of God’s hope when our lives exist without those living in the dark?
How can we sing carols into the air about a vulnerable, despised and marginalized baby
Without knowing any immigrant, unwed mothers with ostracized babies?
Without bright decked cribs, welcomed into religion's warm embrace?
We need the darkness.
We need the vulnerable.
We need to stand alongside the weary, the marginalized,
So we can see the Light of the World stepping down into darkness.
Which people will we let our hearts be with?
The ones huddling against bullets in Aleppo?
Holding out against hunger here in the States, or holding tight to the black plastic bags that hold all their children's possessions when they left the violence?
Will we be found holding our breath, aching for saving, for one more day to hold on, hold out hope for those vulnerable and waiting for broken apart lives to be made whole again?
Or will we be with those clinking our glasses,
Finding ourselves surrounded by strewn wrapping paper, looking around knowing there was something we missed this Christmas, but we just can’t put our finger on what the nagging feeling is about?
We can’t miss the ache.
We can’t miss the pain.
Or we miss the baby breaking the back of darkness;
The Prince of Peace, proclaiming himself Good-Towards-Men.
Huddle alongside those who are breaking,
Who have been told they are illegal, they are unwelcome, they are a stain on society;
Hearing loud and clear that their blackness, their religion are unwanted
And the violence will continue, publicly and privately, until they and their children leave.
There in the darkness, we will see a great light.
And the darkness was not dark anymore, because the light life was among us.
"In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
Let's lean into the darkness,
Welcome the pain of those hurting
so we can see the great Light.
Author and activist Diana Oestreich is key relationships officer at Preemptive Love Coalition. She's also a nurse sexual assault examiner and former Iraq War Army combat medic. Read more of her essays on her website, dianaoestreich.com.