Once in the middle of the night, a man was crawling around on his hands and knees under a streetlight.
A passerby asked him what he was doing.
“I’ve lost my keys,” he said.
The passerby joined the search. After finding nothing, he asked, “Are you sure this is where you dropped your keys?”
“No,” the man replied. “I dropped them across the street.”
The passerby then asked angrily, “Then why are we spending all this time looking here under this streetlight?”
“Well,” the man said, “It’s dark over there.”
Sometimes darkness can be a very powerful thing.
This season is a season of darkness. As the days get shorter and the nights longer, the world around us can affect how we feel inside.
In the midst of Christmas celebration, many are struggling with the death of a loved one. Many are wrestling with issues concerning children or parents, health or relationships, vocation or sense of fulfillment. Many of us not only see darkness this time of year. We feel it.
During my college years, I spent my summers in the mountains of Colorado. Prior to going there, I had always lived in or near larger cities. So, I was accustomed to something called “light pollution.” That’s the name for the soft yellow glow city lights throw into the night sky. It keeps the sky from ever being really dark. It also keeps us from seeing the stars.
I thought I had seen stars before I went to Colorado, but I simply cannot describe the view of the night sky from a hiking trail at 12,000 feet. The first time I saw it, I was absolutely speechless. I never knew there were so many stars! It’s a simple fact that in order to see all those stars, you have to be somewhere very dark. It has to be dark enough to see them.
This season is full of darkness, but it brings good news: It is in the darkest times that the light of Christmas shines brightest. It is in our times of profound loss, grief and sadness that we can truly take the message of Christmas to heart. We are able to have hope even in the middle of our darkness, precisely because of that event that we celebrate together on Christmas.
Christmas is not just for people who celebrate with lights in their yards and festive parties. It is for anyone who feels the darkness and longs for the dawn to come.
If your light is burning brightly this holiday season, look for those who may need it to shine for them. If this season is for you a season of darkness, remember the God of love moves relentlessly to comfort heavy hearts, give courage and help us make it through. Remember God comes into our darkness, right where we are. And in the quiet stillness of a manger shines a tiny light for all to see.
The Rev. Lee Koontz is the senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Gainesville. He can be reached at email@example.com.