A Certain Slant of Light

I am mesmerized by the lights of Christmas.  I guess I always have been.

My mom loved to tell how I got her up in the middle of the night the Christmas I was two, begging to have the Christmas tree turned on.  I always loved the tiny white lights that outline the shops in the center of the charming New England town which was home to our family.  And when I think of Christmas Eve celebrations over the years, I see the faces around our table in the glow of the individual Swedish candle in front of each place.

Lately God seems to be pursuing me with Light, morning and evening.  In beauty, in joyful anticipation, in reflection, in uncertainty, and in grieving (yes, I still miss my mom every day, though December 19 will be the 4-year anniversary of her homegoing).

Early this week, Woody put up the single candles that we light in each window for Advent.  Even as he did the harder work of getting cords untwisted and finding outlets and extension cords, I heard Jesus’ voice: “I am the Light of the world . . . You are the light of the world.”  This is a yearly ritual.

But then there was the light incident of two mornings ago.  It’s very dark in Wisconsin when I get up.  I was sitting in my favorite place, having my morning “Come to Jesus” conversation about worry.  I need the reminder to start every day: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.” (Philippians 4:6 NLT)  I looked toward the darkened family room and wished I had thought to turn on the light above our nativity set.  Because our conversation wasn’t finished (Jesus’ and mine), I didn’t get up and turn on the light.  But then suddenly, there it was—a tiny flicker of a light illuminating the nativity figures.  It seemed that for some reason a small electric candle on the mantle had turned itself on.

I got up and turned it off by loosening the bulb, only because these candles are particularly unpredictable and I didn’t want to burn out the battery.  Back to my seat.  The candle was back on.  Oh, that crazy candle!  I unscrewed it a little more.  I sat down again.  And the light was back on!  I’m not sure how many times this happened.  But I did feel a little like Samuel: how many piercings of the night does it take for God to get my attention?  “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”  (John 1:5 NLT)

The following morning, the bulb was still out of the candle.  But as I was sitting in my familiar place, the sun came up.  Cause for celebration in itself, as we don’t see the sun all that much in Wisconsin these days.  But there it was—a very distinct beam of sunshine slanting across our mantle to the nativity set.  Mostly it was still dark—except for the light slanting its way toward Bethlehem.  “A certain slant of light,” as Emily Dickinson put it (albeit in very different context).  A reminder, for me, of the True Light that came with Christmas.

Then there was my drive home yesterday in the darkness, much later than I’d expected to be.  One of those “routine medical tests” had turned out to be not so routine, and I was facing further testing and uncertainty.  Also, a recalibration of “Linda’s agenda” for getting ready to have everyone home for Christmas this year.   It was cold and dark as I drove home.   I wished we had our window candles on a timer, so I wouldn’t go home to a dark house.

But there they were, five candles radiant in the upstairs bay window.  I’m really not sure why they were on—most likely because I had unwittingly flipped a switch in that room and hadn’t noticed the bulbs lit in the daylight.  But it really felt like God getting my attention with” the Light of His presence”—again.   What did the ancient prophet say? “When I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a Light for me.”  (Micah 7:8 NKJV)

May God surprise you with His Light this Advent.