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Shining in the Darkness

So the 4th week of Advent arrives and the sun is shining today! It's been so gloomy and rainy and overcast and, okay, you get the idea. This weather can make one feel positively optimistic when the sun finally comes out! And of course, the lights on trees, the candles in the windows, the decorations both homemade and air inflated, well we, the world, really seem to outdo ourselves at this time of year.

I was remembering Christmases of past. My parents always over did Christmas. The tree was over sized and had to be re-sized to fit in the living room. The food was in abundance from the hundreds of cookies to the dark and luscious fruitcake to the huge meals it seemed we shared every single day. The special decorations for the front "picture window". The records playing Perry Como telling us that "there's no place like home for the holidays." And the lights...we had plastic candle lights in the front window and throughout the house (front windows only of course), multicolored lights on the tree. Christmas seemed magical somehow with all the special stuff.

There was one thing though, in the corner of the living room, opposite the garish tree. The Nativity scene carefully crafted and assembled according to a little purple book which told you which things could be added on which days. The anticipation of adding the sheep or the shepherds or even the greenery added to the overall breathlessness of the season. This was not an ornate tableau either. The figurines purchased from the local department store were not works of art. If I remember correctly, Mary was wearing lipstick and Joseph's eyes were painted somewhat askew. But this just made the scene more realistic to me. My mother wore lipstick, so why not Mary? And I knew some guy in our church whose eyes were a little off, so why couldn't Joseph's be the same? I remember we had a little lamb who kept falling over, so Mom had to prop him up with a stick (which looked like a log in the scene). As an aside, I still have that little lamb in my own Nativity scene, still propped up with a piece of wood.

And then came Christmas Eve. All six of us would troop to church, then come home and put Mary and Joseph in the Nativity scene and look at the house all decorated and think that there just couldn't be anything more magical or special than this night. We would turn out the lights in the living room and gaze out the window with our plastic candles lit and pretend they were real candles. And the light would shine out on the dark world outside. But our house was ablaze with love and light.

Sometimes in our later years, that light and love seemed somewhat dimmer. Sometimes our enthusiasm was less than exuberant. And as I get older and things change, perhaps my own magic "meter" is somewhat toned down. But the deeper understanding of what it means, Christmas, that is, well-- that still burns like the plastic candles in the window. Shining out in my eyes and heart into the darkness that I know is out there. But I cannot and will not let it be dimmed. For Christmas brings its light to whomever allows it to shine. God came down for us. All of us. And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness is not overcome.

Merry Christmas to all. Enjoy and share the light!

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