The smell of beeswax lingering on your hands. The overly sweet coffee. The hush of a crowded chapel waiting in anticipation for the opening chords of “O Come All Ye Faithful.”
This is my favorite way to start the Christmas season. Lovefeast provided a welcome respite from studying for finals during college, and it has been a Christmas tradition for Matt and I since the year we got engaged the day before the ceremony. (I confess that that year I sat through the traditional Christmas hymns ogling the sparkly thing on my left hand. Have you ever seen what chapel lights can do to a diamond?!) It’s easy, ahem, to get caught up in the more consumerist side of the holidays. The focus on Black Friday sales, on trying to avoid mall crowds, and finding just the right blow-up holiday decoration have become entrenched in our holiday season.
What I usually get most excited about at Christmas is spending time with my families, our Christmas morning tradition of sticky buns and Bloody Mary’s, evenings sipping hot cocoa by the twinkly lights on our mantel and finding just the right gift for my Dad, who hasn’t gotten overly excited about any of our gift since the late '90s when we all just burned him mixed CDs.
These are all wonderful things about Christmas, and things that many people hold dear – family, food, giving of gifts. But I often forget that while those are very special traditions to me, that's not the whole picture of Christmas.
There’s a moment in the service when the lights go dim and the ushers arrive at the end of each aisle with a lit candle. Person to person, candle to the candle, the chapel becomes full of a warm, hushed glow in a matter of minutes. It gives me goose bump.
My mind always goes back to my favorite quote at this moment, by Marianne Williamson.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
As we touch our candles from right to left, I always think of the end of that quote - “as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” I think about how our dark world would be so vividly light up if each one of us just shared a little bit more of their light with every they came into contact with.
Easy to remember in the warm glowing chapel as “Joy to the World” swirls around you. Difficult to remember in the day to day of life that involves work stress, cranky customer service reps, bad traffic, late fees, tense relationships and shouting heads on every major station.
Letting your light shine so that others might do the same – this is what Christ was born to do. Celebrating Christmas is a remembrance of the birth of the greatest life that walked among us, that made a point to gently touch touch his light to everyone he came in contact with.
“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” - John 12:46
Merry Christmas. Let your light shine brightly and boldly.