Advent readings often focus on the theme of light in the midst of darkness, picking up on the words of Isaiah: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light” (9:2). The image also hearkens back to God’s bringing light into existence as a fundamental act of creation. God creates light through speaking it into existence. For Christians, Jesus is the light that brings peace, hope, and love into the world.
When I walk my dog in the evenings, after the sun has set, I enjoy looking at the lights on houses that we pass: bright projected lights moving in patterns on the fronts of homes, illuminated statues of Mary and Joseph on a lawn, or subtle icicle lights hanging from awnings. It reminds me that even when it is dark, we can try to seek God in all things, looking for glimmers of light.
At a friend’s funeral recently, I found Christ’s light in the many people who attended his memorial service and in thinking of the acts of love that he and his family shared in his final days. In the midst of reading the news about war, I found Christ’s light in witnessing a conversation in which two people genuinely sought to learn from one another across political differences. I found light in seeing a sweet baby at Mass, playing with a toy hanging from the handle of her baby seat, reminding me that Jesus as a baby must have played in his own way as well. The play of light, whether physical or metaphorical, reminds us that God’s love triumphs, even if at times we must search for it. Even a small amount of light can illuminate a larger dark space.
This Advent, I am also thinking of how the words that we speak can bring light. Of course, we cannot create anything from nothing, as God does, but insofar as we are made in God’s image, we can “create light” through our actions, words, and how we look at one another.
Jesus tells the parable of the ten virgins who brought oil in their lamps; some run out while others bring enough with them to last until they meet the bridegroom (Matthew 25:1–13). Today we use flashlights or phone lights rather than lanterns. We might think about Advent preparation as having enough juice in the battery to keep our lights alive. How can we prepare ourselves to have enough power in our spiritual batteries when we encounter the darkness of poverty, war, loss, or other suffering in Advent?
For me, at least, it means setting aside some quiet time in prayer to connect to Jesus, my Light, and then setting an intention to try to love others in small ways. Most days, small ways may be all that is available to me: care for my husband, students, or people I greet on the dog walk. However, like the many lights on my neighborhood walk, we don’t spread light alone. Ideally, the Christian community joins their lights together to spread God’s love and peace to many places.
This Advent, how can you spread light to others? How do you recharge your interior light so that it might shine?