When I was a child, my parents would choose one night to drive me around the neighborhood and look at Christmas lights. The lights at our house were not that elaborate; my father put up a single strand of lights around the roof line, standing on a ladder and whistling while he patiently secured the wire. Sometimes I helped him by holding the coil of lights and feeding it to him as he went along. Other houses had professionally installed lights, which I loved looking at, but I appreciated ours more.
One Christmas, when my brother was still a tiny baby, my mother stayed home with him and my father drove me around to look at the lights. He told me they didn’t have Christmas lights at his house when he was a kid, and it made me sad for him. But he didn’t seem sad when telling the story. That was a special Christmas to me, having him all to myself as we drove past houses blinking with cheerful lights.
There is a lot of darkness in this world right now. Christmas lights can’t make us forget about it, the pain runs too deep. But maybe when we look at them we can think about the light within us. There are more good people on this earth than bad, but the people wielding darkness — through slaughter and terror and domination — are committed and fiercely dedicated. We have to be just as fiercely dedicated to dissolving that darkness with light. Anger doesn’t dissolve hatred, it only feeds it.
Maybe in this holiday season, whatever one’s faith is, we can commit to lighting up the world with the best that is within us — with a fierce love for other living beings, with compassion that is stronger than fear, and with a vision for a different world that is so powerful it dissolves darkness with its brilliance. We have all been hobbled by recent events. You don’t have to live in Paris or San Bernardino to feel frightened and pulled apart by grief. We are all citizens of this earth, and we are wounded.
So while lighting up our homes, if we can remember that the strongest light comes from within us, the miracle of the season will be that a changed world suddenly seems possible.