Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Into Our Darkness Comes Light

During the recent 4-day snowstorm our region experienced, I lost electrical power twice.  The first time it was about 5:30 in the evening and I was preparing a salad for my dinner.  The lights flickered, remained on for about 10 more minutes, at which point, I thought we had dodged the bullet.  Then they flickered again and went out - and stayed out.

About 10-15 minutes into this enforced darkness, my daughter called and said they had called the electrical company and had been told our power would probably be back on by 8pm.  Okay, I can handle another 2 hours of this, I think!

I got out my flashlights, gathered candles from the other rooms and lit them in the den, where I sat and ate dinner by candlelight.  Nice, but it gets old fast, trust me!

I finished my salad then took out my Kindle.  I figured I could still play some games or read, right? Wrong!  5 minutes into it, my Kindle died.  Checked out my phone only to see that it was in the process of dying, too!  So I shut it off to conserve what was left in case I needed to use it in an emergency.

So there I sat in the dark with nothing to do!  
No TV news to watch.  
No Kindle to fire up.  
No phone to use to call a friend!

I snuggled under a quilt in my recliner and began to sing Christmas Carols.  One side of my Christmas tree was shadowed in candlelight and actually looked very pretty, shimmering in the darkness.

Looked at the clock - 7:25.  About 1/2 hour more; I can do this!

7:45 - man, time flies when you're having fun!!  Not!

8:10 - still no electricity; but a loud pounding on my door.  My son-in-law comes bearing news - the power company is now saying we may not have power until 8:00 - tomorrow night!!  We huddled together, planning strategy - use as little water as possible (we have a well), only open refrigerator doors when necessary, pull all blinds and place blankets at bottom of doors to help keep the cold out, sleep with heavy pajamas and an extra blanket.  Food in freezer should keep at least til morning, then we could put out on porch to keep frozen.  You get the picture?!

He left and I made my preparations. 
 I sat in the darkness thinking of the things I had planned for the next day:
- manicure/pedicure
- lunch with friends
- work to finish up some loose ends
- prayer meeting at church.

I wouldn't be able to take a shower in the morning; couldn't dry my hair; probably wouldn't even be able to see to put my make-up on.  Didn't even have a phone to call and cancel these plans.  I would have to take my phone out to the car in the morning so I could use it!

At that point, I decided to just get into bed where I would at least be warm for awhile and read. Novel idea: a hardcover book with a flashlight.  I read for awhile, then remembered I had a peppermint pattie in the refrigerator.  Arguing with myself on whether or not I would open the refrigerator door and let out some precious cold air for a peppermint pattie, I decided, heck, yes and went to get it!!  As I opened the door, the lights came on!!!

I did a happy dance right there in my kitchen all by myself!

We had light again!
We had power again!

A few days later, I read something in my Advent devotional book, The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp.  I want to share parts of it with you.  It gave me a whole new perspective on the darkness I was sitting in and through during the snowstorm.
May it bless you, too.

   "Light the Advent candles.  Light them, light them.
   Trim the wicks, watch the reflections, sit in the dark and wait.

   Wait through the long, black night.  
   You can sit in the dark and feel the reverberating echo of Carl Sagan's words through our impossible emptiness, like a blaring headline for the world: "In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves."  
  No hint of help.  No rumor of relief.  No sign of saving.  For us waiting through the night, waiting through the dark.  
   And then...there it comes to the waiting, to the leaning, to the cold - a dawn!  Light! Light!  
   Not mere candles wavering in the face of the black but a dawn - a dawn to crack back the black, to pry up the dark with bright shards, to peel it back and flood the cold room with light.  
   A light from beyond, erupting, heaving the black right back.  A fire that the people walking in darkness did not set - but that they saw.  
   A light that the people in the dark couldn't ignite, couldn't inflame, and couldn't fabricate - but could only find.
     True, Mr. Sagan, there is no "hint" that help will come from somewhere else to save us.  There is a dawn in the dark, there is unstoppable light, there is God-glory blazing.
   Our God who breathes stars in the dark - He breathes Bethlehem's Star, then takes on lungs and breathes in stable air.  We are saved from hopelessness because God came with infant fists and open wide His hand to take the iron sharp edge of our sins.
     We are saved from our loneliness because God is love and He can't stand to leave us by ourselves, to ourselves.
   That is the message of Christmas.  The message of Christmas is not that we can make peace. Or that we can make love, make light, make gifts, or make this world save itself.
   The message of Christmas is that this world's a mess and we can never save ourselves from ourselves and we need a Messiah.
   For unto us a Child is born.
   The Light never comes how you expect it.  It comes as the unlikely and unexpected - straight into Bethlehem unlikely and the feed trough hopeless, and Christmas whispers there is always hope.  It doesn't matter how dark the dark is; a light can still dawn.  It doesn't matter if the world whispers, 'There's not a hint that help will come from elsewhere,' telling us that nothing will ever improve, get better, change.  God favors the darkest places so you can see His light the brightest.
   And once the light of Christ shatters your dark, shadows forever flee your shadowlands.  There's no going back and living in the dark; you live in the impenetrable, safe Light of light, and Christmas never ends for you.  A Christian never stops living Christmas.  True, you cannot light Christmas - because it's Christmas that lights you.
   It's Christmas that dawns on you, and you only really believe in Christmas when you really live it. When you light a dark world and the unexpected places with a brave flame of joy; when you warm the cold, hopeless places with the daring joy that God is with us.  God is for us, God is in us; when you are a wick to light hope in the dark - then you believe in Christmas.  When you really believe in Christmas, you believe there is really hope for everyone  When you get Christmas, people get hope from you - they don't lose it.
   Unless you keep passing on the miracle of hope, you live like Christmas is a myth.
   So light the Advent candles.  Light them, light them.

  And you can see it, with every lit candle, sparks of the dawning.
  Hope catching on everything."

"The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.  For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine...."
Isaiah 9:2

This is the light that shines eternal, that doesn't depend on any "power company."  This is the only light that will dispel our darkness permanently.

"Light of the world, you stepped out into darkness
Opened my eyes, let me see.
Beauty that made this heart adore you
Hope of a life spent with you.

Here I am to worship....."

When this light, this marvelous light, steps into our darkness, our only response can be to worship.

"Here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down..."

Immanuel....God is with us.
Our God - the Light of the World.

Merry Christmas!

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