When I think of Christmas, I think of lights. I imagine Christmas lights on houses, lights on the tree, candles. As I approach this season of Advent, I think of where I was one year ago. I had almost given up on church last year at this time; then I found St. George’s Anglican Church, in St. Catharines. I clearly remember last year’s Christmas Eve service. At the end we all sang “Silent Night”; each of us held our candle, sharing our light that was lit by one candle to start it all. By the end, we, the church, were the light that shines in the darkness.
This has been a year of many unforeseen changes and challenges for us all. I don’t know how the Christmas Eve service will look this year at St. George’s. There are so many unknowns ahead of us. Comforting words of Christian singer-songwriter Morgan Harper Nichols bring me back to this present, and fill me with what I see as Christian hope for 2021. She says: “Even here, you are free to exhale. Even here you are worthy of release. Being in the unknown will ask a lot of you, but there is freedom within it too … to slow down and notice what’s around you, and how even here, the Light pours through.”
Within the unknowns, I believe there will be hope and there will be light. Sometimes seeing the light requires us to turn our eyes to the present. Sometimes it means looking in the mirror and asking ourselves tough questions: How do I “Be the Light?” How do I live as a beloved child of God, even when it doesn’t feel so? Other times it means silently and honestly praying. God, it seems so dark, show me some light! My hope is that God shows up here, in both those prayers, helping me to know the Light, and also to live as someone who shines light in the darkness.
I believe that waiting in this season of Advent means intentionally surrendering to all the unknowns, and still making a promise to God to be a light. My hope for 2021 is that I am open to how God uses me and all of us to be light in a world that seems increasingly scary. How do I want God to show up? Through us all: actions, generosity, tangible acts of care for our neighbours, prayers for each other, and continually creative ways to reach out and be there in a time of social distancing, to live faithfully as we carry our many painful losses and fears.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it,” (John 1:5). God is love. We will love. We will be the light, whether we are able to hold candles this year together or not.
The Christmas season is usually hard for many; this year I imagine it being increasingly challenging. And I commit to being Christ’s hands and feet, and to seeing the face of Christ in those around me. This will be hard, so I ask God to show up, and show me how.
I do hope we will light candles like last year at Christmas Eve. However, in the meantime as we wait, and after, in 2021, I pray for courage to continually sit with difficult unknowns, search and see light around me, and to also become the candle that shines in the darkness.
Caitlyn Chiarelli is a writer who attends St. George’s Anglican Church, St. Catharines. She often writes about mental health, disability and inclusion. She studied education at Ryerson University and the University of Toronto.