The Light We Cannot See
Once a few Decembers ago we were planning a holiday party and I decided it would perfect to light the weeping cherry tree in the front yard.
The week of the party I left the office at one o’clock. I needed to deck these boughs while the light held, and I figured I needed at least a couple hours. I would hang a strand, then wriggle through the brittle branches and down the ladder to see what it looked like. Even lit, I couldn’t see the lights. I couldn’t tell if I had too much on one side and not enough on the other, gaps or hot spots. The irony was, I needed to work in the light but I could only see the result of my work in the darkness.
For the party we lit all the candles in the living room. It’s a large room with only a few table lamps, so we put tapers and votives all along the mantle, on end tables, on the piano, in the window sills, on book shelves. Maybe twenty flames.
At night’s end, when everyone went home, I cleaned up the last of the dirty plates and glasses and blew out all the candles. I started with the tapers surrounded by globes on the mantle and worked my way around the room, whiffing one flame after another until a light haze of smoke hovered near the ceiling. Then I turned off the table lamps and started to leave.
That’s when I saw it. One light flickered in the darkness. One votive tucked beside a vase on a corner table—I’d missed it. I could see it only in the darkness.
This is the season when we watch for the Light. If you want to see the stars, though, you would be foolish to stargaze at noon. Just so, our search for that one small flickering Light is hindered by a kind of light pollution. There are too many flashy images, too many garish temptations, too many glowing video screens.
If we want to see that Light, we are wise to turn things off for a while, be for a time in the darkness until it isn’t really dark anymore, because our spiritual eyes adjust, and we begin to see…in a new Light.
P.S. Advent is days away, and once again I am posting a reflection every day of the season. It’s called “A Kitchen Table Advent: Short Reflections to Share with Family & Friends.” I can’t wait!