The winter solstice is upon us. It is the shortest, darkest day of the year, and yet, there is optimism in the air. The days will get longer and lighter from here; there is hope after all!
With the lighting of the final Advent candle this Sunday, I’ve been thinking a lot about light, in particular the hope that it signifies. Each candle has brought us further out of the darkness and into the light, closer to the coming our Lord. The thrill of hope.
The opposite of hope is despair, a state of total darkness. Positive psychologists have recognized that one of the main characteristics of consistently happy people is their propensity towards hope, even in negative situations.
Me, I teeter delicately somewhere in-between pessimism and optimism. At my best, I’m a Mary Poppins cyclone of cheer. At my worst…well, let’s just say you might tell me to grab a Snickers. The Devil must love despair, effectively kicking us when we’re down. Thankfully, even in the darkest of hours, there is light.
I stare at my waist-high laundry pile and think I’ll never be caught up. I should just donate it all and sell the kids on the black market. But then, I force myself to fold for a few minutes, and I see the light at the end of the tunnel.
My kids have been whining and crying at bedtime every night for weeks, wearing on my last desperate-for-mommy-time-nerve. But then, morning comes and my sunshines smile at me once again.
Too much time away from my husband, and I feel like we are two ships passing in the night. But then, a little bit of intentional quality time, and the spark is ignited.
While the days are getting longer now, we still have a long winter ahead. Much of our world is bound in despair: the conflict and resulting refugee crisis in Syria is increasingly devastating, here in our own country the ongoing heroin epidemic taxes the country’s foster care system, and many people feel their safety is in jeopardy due to increasing polarization of our country.
Over the years, I’ve found that one of the best ways to pull out of despair and get through the long winter is to focus on the light both literally, as in the warm glow of our fireplace and figuratively, as in dinner with friends after a hum-drum day at work.
Similarly, in our world, we can focus on the light. There are so many heartwarming stories highlighted in the news over the holiday season. But these stories shouldn’t just make us feel better about the world; they should inspire us to move a step further and be the light.
Help give refuge to the fleeing Middle Easterner as if it was Jesus Himself who fled to Egypt. Support our foster children as if they were the child Jesus whose parents once left Him behind in the temple. Comfort the anxious person as if he were Jesus who suffered persecution for His beliefs.