Happy New Year—and Take the Light!

It’s happened again. The Light. Just showing up when and where I least expect it. I’ve written before—in past Christmases, I think—about that “certain slant of light” that sneaks across the nativity set on our mantle on certain early mornings when the sun shines here in Wisconsin.

But this happened in the dark. Just the day before yesterday. I got up and stumbled into the kitchen, before coffee, and it was cold. And dark. Very dark.

And there it was. One single candle on the mantle, just to the right of the Bethlehem gathering, with its bulb lit. The candle next to it (both of them battery run) remained dark. They had, after all, been turned off before we went to bed.

But there it was. Stubborn, persistent, wonderful light. Penetrating the darkness and the cold with the reminder that the Light of Christmas isn’t extinguished after the holiday. It remains—persists, even—right on into the New Year, into the January of our lives.

Startled as I was by the light, I had a sudden flashback. One dark night long ago, early in our marriage, Woody and I were working as short-term missionaries in a very remote area in Northern Kenya. We had just finished dinner with a missionary couple and were leaving to cross a winding dirt road to the little cottage where we slept. As we started out the door, the missionary ran after us with a flashlight: “You’d better take this,” he said.

We resisted: “Oh no, we won’t need it,” we assured him. “There’s moonlight, it’s a short distance, and we know the way.”

“Oh, if I were you I’d take it,” he insisted. “There’s a leopard that likes to hang out around that road at night. But he’s very afraid of the light.”

We took the flashlight.

The memory came back to me as I contemplated that candle. I reflected on the closing days of 2012 and wondered about 2013. There’s been a lot of darkness lately. And 2013 is looking a bit murky just now. You never know what leopards might be lurking around. What did Peter say? Something about lion-like evil that prowls around, seeking to devour? (I Peter 5:8)

But there’s that Light. It’s persistent. Steady. Stubborn, even. John said even the darkness can’t put it out. (John 1:5) So I feel I can wish you—even despite and amidst any darkness in our world, or in your personal world—a Happy New Year.

And don’t forget—Take the Light!