It’s the season for light. Every December, crowds gather for light-filled Christmas parades; homeowners decorate the outside of their homes with joyful brightness, while inside, Christmas trees sparkle and glow. We love this season, partly because it comes during the darkest month of the year in the northern hemisphere. Festivals focused on banishing the dark are an ancient tradition that go back millenia, reminding us of the importance of light in our lives.
But some people don’t see or feel the accompanying joy that such festivities bring. For them, it is as if the light in their lives has – for one reason or another – been extinguished.
I got a further insight into how we can rediscover that inner glow when reading a children’s novel with my family one year. In his engagingly written book, The Adventures of Ranald Bannerman, the well-loved Scottish writer George MacDonald chronicles the early life of Ranald, the son of a Scottish church minister. Said to be autobiographical, it is about the life of a boy growing up in the highlands of Scotland and of the characters he meets.
One night, his father is called to the bed of a sick man, and he takes Ranald with him. As they travel through the dark in a bitter snowstorm, the father asks his son what he thinks life would be like if every day was like this – cold, dark and stormy – without any light. Ranald, who I guess was about eight, answers that he thinks it would be awful to be always in the dark and so cold. The father agrees, adding that, without light, every living thing would shrivel and die, for everything needs light. He went on to explain that the man they were visiting had become so angry and bitter that he was without any light at all.
Eventually Ranald and his father arrived safely at the man’s house and ministered to his needs. This very act of having the church minister and his son come through the dark and cold to visit brought light and warmth to the sick man’s cold, dark thoughts, and healed his bitterness.
MacDonald, a pioneer of the now popular “fantasy” genre of writing, influenced such writers as Lewis Carroll, J.R.R.Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and W.H. Auden. However, at the heart of his writing was a real and practical Christian theology that rejected the teachings of eternal damnation in which there is permanent cold and darkness and where only a deserving few are saved. For MacDonald, God’s love was like that light – not exclusive to a small, select group, but rather inclusive, embracing and touching every heart.
Like the man who felt this spiritual light through the active love of the Rev. MacDonald, we are all entitled to reclaim it within. And it is ours to share. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.”
The Christmas season is an opportunity to remember that this light is not just out there in the decorations – much as we love them. Nor is it confined to one season. It’s actually in a deeper, healing message that the spiritual glow within each of us has its source in God and cannot be extinguished. Even if it feels like it is gone, it remains waiting – and even demanding – to be recognized and celebrated.
This article was published in the Vancouver Courier HERE