Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Lights

I have always loved Christmas lights.

There is something about them that consistently returns me to a state of child-like wonder, something that pushes me to the kind of innocent hope I usually don’t even believe exists anymore. 

It has always been this way. Even as a teenager, I remember army crawling deep under the branches of my family’s tree and then rolling over on my back to look up. The lights would glitter like a golden spray of stars frozen mid-shower, their rays broken and reflected on the silver tinsel garlands woven up over the dark branches. No matter where my heart was on those December days, the lights were a constant calm, whispering be still. All will be well.

This might be part of why, in some of the hardest years of my life, I chose to use hundreds of Christmas lights as the primary lighting in my room year round. Lights outlined my band posters and textbook shelves and CD collection, shedding a soft, sympathetic glow over countless hours of writing papers and falling asleep with red eyes and shoes still on.

Later I’d move in with a dear friend in Colorado who shared this same love for Christmas lights-- her living room and kitchen were also outlined by the bright, winking bulbs, and for the hours when I was in the house alone, I’d often use them as the only light source yet again. It felt especially right on the days where snow fell softly outside, breathtaking in its chilly, dangerous beauty as I sat inside ringed in by warm light.

This year is different than any that has come before it. I’m a newly married 20-something in a new city just barely getting by with a dead-end job and a heart that lately seems to have dead-ended as well, and Christmas lights honestly seem like an extravagance I have no right to indulge. I had to rationally weigh the possibility of not decorating at all-- after all, no one but me and my husband will see it anyway. I am living in the kind of isolation where I hesitate to bake for the Christmas season because there’s no one to eat any of it, where I know if my car breaks down in the ice on the way home from another long holiday shift there is not a single person I can call to come pick me up.

But maybe all of this just means I have more reason than ever to pull out the strands of Christmas lights we used at my wedding and re-use them, in defiance of the grown-up cynicism that threatens to choke the light from this gray December. When I was a child, others hung up the lights for me, and I simply soaked in their glow. Maybe part of being “grown up” in this season is not retiring the lights, but rather choosing to hang them myself even if there’s no one here to help or even to see.

I don’t know the thought inside out yet, but I feel that hope is something we choose instead of something that happens to us. Hope is in defiance of, not rational reliance on, the shadows circumstance casts on us. Hope is truest when it is impossible.  After all, the incarnation, this mystery that prompted this holiday, must have seemed the same-- the strange idea that a newborn’s cry heralded a collision of the dark night with the divine, that the frail infant hands held love enough to alter the course of human hearts forever. 

So I’ll hang the lights and I’ll hope, in memory of the way things have been and anticipation of what is to come, in recognition that the miracle of God-with-us is just as true today as it was two thousand years ago-- and that is reason enough to shed a little light.


MangyCat said...

I say you forget about taking them down after Christmas. :-)

NarnianWarHorse said...

Wow Elraen, that was beautiful - yet again. :) Especially what you said about the Incarnation; what a perfect way to express it!
You have an incredible gifting with words that can't help but inspire people.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas beyond anything you could have imagined, & deeper than you'd ever dare hope for, & know that I'm thinking of you with lots of love.

Merry Christmas!