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Let This Light Grow in Us

Let it grow in us, this light, let it grow in all of our hearts, the light of our love for one another, let it grow and get stronger, let it not be dimmed but increased, becoming ever more radiant, reaching out to enfold all the people who need its blessing so badly. Let it heal us, this wondrous light, let its love heal us of our fear and sadness, so we may rejoice again in the simple pleasure of being alive, honoring those we have lost, lifting up those we celebrate, feeling community knit itself around us. Let it free us, this light, this powerful light of the Spirit, let it open the cage of despair in every mind, releasing our children to live in joy, allowing us to fly once again, free in the open sky of our hope, unafraid of the past that falls far beneath us, as we reach for the light, this single shining light, the same light that is already encircling you, even as you finish [hearing] these words.~ Steven Charleston, retired Episcopal bishop of Alaska and Choctaw elder

On Monday, December 21 at 5:02am Eastern Time was the winter solstice—the moment when our hemisphere is tilted as far away from the sun as it can be; the shortest day of the year, the longest night of one of the darkest years in our lifetimes. 14 hours later, at 7:04pm Eastern Time, the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn took place in the darkness of the southwestern sky for the first time since the year 1226, forming what even astronomers call “The Christmas Star.” The convergence of these two celestial events is coincidental, but their timing seems particularly perfect as they, also coincidentally, followed the Jewish feast of Hanukkah, the Festival of Light, that had just concluded, and occurred in the Fourth Week of Advent when our Advent wreath was at its brightest with all four candles lit. Nature, it seems, has been doing everything it can to cooperate with our liturgical seasons. And I have no doubt that God is behind it all saying something like “Are you getting it NOW?! There’s literally a very unusual, very bright light illuminating the darkest, longest night! If you aren’t paying attention now, what else do I need to do?!”

Isaiah prophesied: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who lived in a land of gloom a light has shone! [Isaiah 9:1 (NAB)] It’s been a very long and very dark year for most of us. If we haven’t allowed the darkness to overtake us, to blind us, as it were, we should be able to see even the smallest light. Have we seen it? Will we see it? If we’ve seen it, does it make any difference in us? Will it make any difference? I think that’s what Stephen Charleston’s words are encouraging in us—to see this light, to bask in it and to let it take hold of us and grow in us so that we might become radiant with it. Just like Mary in the Gospel story of the Annunciation. That’s how we will be transformed and in turn it’s how we will be able to transform our world. And that’s what incarnation is all about! Bringing Emanuel—God With Us—into the world in whatever ways we can. Because, as Meister Eckhart tells us, “We are all meant to be mothers of God for God is always needing to be born.”

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Jo Ann Staebler
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Jo Ann Staebler

Such truth. Thank you, Anita, for drawing this circle of light. I bring to it a word of wonder from my Hebrew class (twenty years ago?!?). In the Isaiah passage, the word the NAB translates “gloom,” and the NRSV “deep darkness,” actually means “shadow.” It also occurs in Psalm 23, “shadow of death,” but in only a few other places. When it’s used in Hebrew, it always indicates something that’s temporary, even if it’s something good (“I am safe in the shadow of your wings.”) In that light (see what I did there?), I’m wondering if we’ve only *experienced* 2020… Read more »

Kevin Ryan
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Kevin Ryan

Lovely piece, Anita, and thoughts I have been praying and holding close to my heart throughout the past week and more. As my theology is almost entirely “earth-centered,” I had to smile when I read your line, “Nature, it seems, has been doing everything it can to cooperate with our liturgical seasons. And I have no doubt that God is behind it all saying something like “Are you getting it NOW?” I might add that the Divine has been encouraging us to get on board with its rhythms, not so much the rhythms of nature with ours; either way, yes,… Read more »