Editor’s Note: Executive Director Elizabeth Hughes discusses the light that has contrasted the darkness of this past year. On this Christmas Day, she reflects on the power of Christ’s light within us.
One of my favorite websites is NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day. Each day, NASA features a different image of the cosmos, along with an astronomer’s explanation. The images are a mesmerizing contrast of dark and light, highlighting the beauty and wonder of God’s creation. Not only are the images more powerful because they are contrasted against the dark, but the most powerful photos highlight multiple sources of light, reflecting off one another: a cluster of galaxies; Jupiter and Saturn; a shower of meteors.
This Christmas, it is easy to see the darkness. We have experienced individual and collective loss; we are grieving people, traditions, and physical presence. Those already on the margins tend to be impacted by this loss at a disproportionate rate. Collective darkness is something with which we are well familiar, just as were so many on the night of Christ’s birth.
John’s Gospel tells us, “The light shines in the darkness” and so it is. This Christmas, I am moved by multiple sources of light: the light of Christ and the many lanterns illuminating our dark paths. What I have learned is that the lanterns are powerful, not because they individually shine as brightly as the sun nor represent a return to an era prior to the pandemic, but because they collectively are expressions of solidarity, showing us a way to navigate through difficult times with one another. They bring forth the sacredness of the present moment and remind us of the reality that we do not stand alone.
One ordinary block in DC was one of those lanterns for me. Every evening this summer at 7pm this block transformed into a center of physically distant community. In solidarity with those mourning the death of George Floyd and striving for racial justice, our neighborhood block held an 8 minute, 45 second Black Lives Matter (BLM) porch protest each evening. Embracing the Latin American cacerolazo tradition, we beat pots and chanted from our individual porches. A group of many races and ages who did not previously know each other well, we chanted “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice, No Peace.” Sometimes, one particular household – members of the black community on our block — chanted “All Lives Matter.” A phrase that has different connotations in different contexts, these neighbors were expressing an appreciation for interracial solidarity.
While I’m not convinced that our little block made change for BLM, we sure did change our relationships with one another. In the months that passed, we asked to borrow sugar, run errands for each other, picked up packages, and watched each other’s pets. Small things, certainly, that a lot of neighbors do. Yet like so many moments of light, it was God transforming us and God making God’s presence known among us through the power of simple acts of love and solidarity.
This Christmas, a star guides the shepherds to the Christ. This single star is only the beginning of the story. All the ways in which Christ becomes incarnate in the world depend on the ways in which we open ourselves to let Christ shine His light through us. How we are vessels of peace, justice, and care for the most vulnerable. How will we be lanterns, part of the magnificent constellations amid this dark sky?