I've been thinking about how light figures into our celebrations this time of year. The lights twinkle on the Christmas tree, we light the candles of the Advent wreath each Sunday, the menorah is lit for Hannukah, the Magi followed the light of the star to Bethlehem, in other cultures bonfires are lit on the winter solstice. It must be that, because winter has come, the nights are long and dark, the days are often dreary with little sunlight, and we miss the light of summer.
The night must have held many terrors for our primitive ancestors. Our vision is poorly adapted for the darkness of night, and the sounds of the night must have been very frightening. The light of a fire during the long nights of winter would have kept those invisible terrors from being quite so frightening. So, perhaps the need for celebrations of light in the dark of winter have been with us for thousands of years.
As you and I take part in this season of light, my prayer is that we are reminded that the lights symbolize freedom from fear of both the literal and figurative darkness, that we feel confidence that life is not something to be feared but rather something to be embraced with joy.