Light. We really miss it when it's in short supply. It's the reason we put lights on trees and shrubbery and mantels and mailboxes and most anywhere we can string them during the dreary months of November and December. Sometimes into January. Natural light wanes. Human-made light steps in. But more of the natural kind is creeping into our days now. Have you noticed? Have you seen the light?
That's a loaded question. It was once used - or overused - in religious circles as a way of discovering a person's level of spiritual awareness. If abused, it can imply believing exactly as the person asking the question believes. Because, of course, that person is "enlightened." But the question or expression can simply mean coming to an understanding about something, anything. As in having the lightbulb come on. Maybe we say that we are seeing something in a new light. As in from a different perspective. It's helpful. We've grown or shifted or expanded.
And then there's a lightness of heart or spirit which suggests being filled with joy. Feeling less burdened. Having had a weight lifted. Or living out of a gladness over being alive rather than a madness over existing in this torn-up world. Several weeks ago, in a circle of people gathered to worship, a wise person commented that even a blind person can sense light in another human being. The question then could be revised to ask, have you sensed the light?
Whether we see light or sense it, we know what it is. We know it as being different from darkness and heaviness. We sense it as energy and warmth. And we know we need it. We need it for our health in all aspects of our lives. But every now and then it is too much for us. Too bright. Too overpowering. Too revealing. Too invasive. Sometimes we are blinded by the light. Sometimes we'd rather hunker down in the darkness. Sometimes we'd rather not see all that can be seen in the light. And sometimes we're just not ready to surrender the heaviness, let go of the burden, give ourselves over to joy. We'd rather not see or sense any light at all.
For people of faith who dance to the rhythms of religious seasons, we're perched on the border between Epiphany and Lent. What's ahead is an intense season. It's like intentionally asking God to shine a floodlight on our lives. A light so powerful it flays our hearts open so everything is exposed. But strangely the light doesn't shame or blame. The light is warm like a flame. Will we see and not turn away from its truth? Will we sense and rejoice in its presence? These are the questions that bear down on us as the evening yields more of its darkness to the day's light.