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Light on Dark Days

By Karen Austin

My car crawls through the neighborhood at 5:55 am, feeling its way through the quiet, dark street. My son holds onto a little more sleep as we make our way to his early morning seminary class.  Today the fog has emerged from the banks of Cowskin Creek, covering the road and obscuring my view.   Parked cars are muted, trees muffled, and houses stifled by darkness and fog.

I’m usually a morning person, but as the earth pulls away from the sun during December, my energy wanes.  I sleep longer, eat more and adopt a more pessimistic attitude.  As I sit at the one stoplight between our house and the church, I feel a bit burdened by all the holiday hubbub.

My little horse must think it’s queer / To stop without a farmhouse near.

Very few cars move with the green light through the intersection as I wait at the red light.  But down the street to my left I see multiple colored lights push through the fog.  As this vehicle moves through the intersection and into view, I nudge my son awake. “Look, that truck has Christmas lights on its cab.”

We talk brightly for the last mile of our trip.

During the holiday season, the northern hemisphere slowly loses daylight as we move towards Winter Solstice.  Tomorrow the sun will hold its breath a bit before taking the journey towards greater light, culminating in the Summer Solstice six months later. The world seems to balk. Tomorrow we have a forecast of cold wind, sleet and freezing rain turning to snow.

During these dark times, people gather together to celebrate the miracle of light by using lamps, candles, fireplaces, porch lights, and Christmas lights that adorn houses, trees, posts and whatever the imagination allows, like a truck.  My own tween daughter provided light for her mutual class as one of the few who brought flashlights to their Christmas caroling activity.

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, thy candle shines so brightly!

The Doctrine & Covenants is filled with passages that connect light, truth, divinity and Christ himself.  Light begets light.  As a teen, I was mesmerized by the connection between physical light and spiritual light. I also saw the role of love in this equation, making it warm light.  I would spend hours drawing light bulbs shaped like hearts, adding beams bursting out to a weary world:

The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.

The book of John does much to help the mortal mind better comprehend the immortal power of Christ through metaphor. Christ is the True Vine, the Living Water, and the Bread of Life.    During these dark days, we recall His words recorded by John:

I am the light of the world.

Again and again, the New Testament writers–Matthew, John, Paul and more–make the invitation:  be children of light.  So does Christ himself in the Sermon on the Mount.

Let your light so shine.

When darkness threatens to rob me of hope and fill me with despair, I need to remember to look for the light . Once found, I need to share even the tiniest flame with others. Light begets light.   Portia in The Merchant of Venice noted the power of even a little light in a dark chamber:

How far that little candle throws its beams, So shines a good deed in a naughty world.

God bless those who share light with others in times of darkness—whatever time of year it may be and whatever vehicle of light they may choose.

Yet in the dark street shineth the Everlasting Light. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight. 

 It may be a string of lights on a truck, a clean well-lighted place of refuge for an aching heart, an enlightened comment fueled with Christlike love, or even just a solar-powered mega-watt smile offered freely to a stranger in a crowd.

What holiday traditions help you manage the winter blues? When and how have others offered you light?  How does Christ’s light illuminate your life? 


About Karen Austin

After living in UT, HI, CA, VA, DC, WI, WV & KS, Karen now lives in Newburgh, IN with her husband and two children. She's been a BYU writing tutor, an English teacher, technical writer, director of academic support services, and aging studies adjunct. She's reinventing herself--again. New role still pending, but mature athlete, thrift store fashionista, and court jester are strong candidates. She maintains the blog The Generation Above Me.

9 thoughts on “Light on Dark Days”

  1. Karen, I bookmarked this to read earlier this morning, and only just got around to it now, as our late breakfast wraps up. What a beautiful, contemplative, poetic set of thoughts for this morning! Thank you very much for sharing it.

    As for traditions of ours which match your post here, for us it is all about candles–advent candles, our candle-lit creche, and many others around the house. As the darkness comes earlier and earlier (the solstice is tomorrow!), bringing the bright, warm, singular light of candles into our home is really important to our mood, and the whole "illumination" of the season.

  2. Beautifully written! I, too, have been intrigued by all the mentions of "light" in the scriptures. You have done a lovely job of bringing all the elements of my thoughts together. Here is my favorite song about light this season (Our choir is singing it on Sunday. I'm so excited! Click on the MP3 tab, then listen to the Sydney Chamber Choir a capella version) "Born is the Light of the World" by Sally DeFord: http://www.defordmusic.com/sheet-music/alphabetical-list/born-is-the-light-of-the-world/
    Merry Christmas!

  3. Thank you, thank you. The Spirit spoke to me as I read your eloquent, "enlightening" narrative. It radiated light to me. With permission, I would like to share this in sacrament talks.

  4. Russell: Thanks for reading. It looks like you have a festival of lights going on in your home. Cool!

    Strollerblader: I don't know that song. Thanks for the tip and the link.

    Sharon: You are very kind to comment. Of course, you may use the post. I would be honored.

    Merry Christmas to you all.

  5. lovely imagery and thoughts during this season, thanks for sharing. Like you I have found the very act of sharing light seems to dispel darkness and gloom. 0ne year as a college co-ed I remember coming home grouchy and being dragged off by my father to deliver gifts. As I trudged through the snow and wind to deliver gifts to these dear families who had helped shaped me into the woman I was my heart changed. I felt the love of our Savior for each of sisters and those families and it was the best feeling I had ever had at Christmas. Each year I try to recapture that feeling -that pure love of Christ. We try to focus on gratitude for what we have, and sharing what others may need this time of year and joy in the good new of Christ's gifts to us. I have my children buy gifts for each other, and help earn money to give Christmas to another family.

  6. I lived in Sweden for 5 1/2 years and discovered they have the best tradition about light during the darkest time of the year. Lucia day on December 13th not only celebrates Saint Lucia but also celebrates light and it's power over darkness. Many of their Christmas songs focus on light. I attended a beautiful church service one year at the local church in our square and found the sermon about light, both physical and spiritual powerful and inspiring.


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