Christmas Eve luminaries
I fell in love with Christmas Eve in the neighborhood where I grew up in Houston, Texas. Christmas Eve was a night of magic back then. A night when an ordinary place, a place I knew like the back of my hand, was transformed into a wonder of lights. When we were very small, we spent the day helping my dad fill hundreds of paper bags with sand with our little beach shovels. As we got a little older, our jobs changed – we were given the important task of nestling a votive candle into the bed of sand in the exact center of the bag.
I’ll never forget the year that my parents decided my brother and I were old enough to light the candles. As darkness fell, he and I crept along our front walk, driveway and sidewalk carefully turning paper bags into lanterns or luminaries that would twinkle and shine for everyone to enjoy throughout that long winter night.
Sharing our lights
As if this wasn’t enough magic, I remember the year one of our neighbors was sick in the hospital. Without any discussion at all, each house along our street simply spread their luminaries a little further apart so that we had extra to line our neighbor’s walks and driveway.
When darkness fell on that long ago Christmas Eve, the whole neighborhood looked as lovely as ever. For me, however, it felt even more magical. In caring for our neighbor by sharing our little homemade lights, we had banished a patch of darkness in our celebration of light.
Darkness does not overcome light
There is a lovely verse in the Christian Bible, “light shines in the darkness and darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). There is so much truth packed into this handful of words. Think about how bright the stars seem when you’re in the darkest places – far from the lights of your town or city. Think about the fact that lighthouses lit only by flames could be seen by sailors over miles and miles of stormy seas. Even a sliver of light can vanquish darkness.
There is light in each of us
The traditional greeting at the end of a yoga class is the Sanskrit word namaste. My favorite translation of this word is “the light in me bows to the light in you.” I love the reminder that we each carry a light within that makes us who we are – special, unique and filled with love. I especially love the reminder that this is true of absolutely everyone – even people we don’t know, or who intimidate us or who we merely tolerate.
We are all filled with light. Light that we share with the world around us deliberately through acts of kindness. Light that we also share with the world simply by being who we are. While we will never know all the ways that our own small light brightens the day for someone else, we can each be absolutely certain that this is happening. We are all little lanterns shining like luminaries in the world.
We receive and give light from those around us
We all navigate challenging times in life. Times that feel so dark that we cannot find our light within. Times when we’re sick, like my long-ago neighbor. Times when we’re heartbroken. Times when we’re lost. Times when we feel profoundly alone. In times like this, we might have to rely on other sources of light. Like my neighbor, we can rely on the light of the people around us for a little while.
The gift of light we thankfully take
But not shall it be alone for our sake
The more we give light
The one to the other
It shines and spreads and it glows still further
Until every spark by friends set aflame
Until every heart with joy to proclaim
In the depths of our souls a shining sun glows.
Sharing makes the light in us brighter than ever
As we begin to feel even a little better – as impossibly hard as it might seem – we can choose to reach out. Take a walk through town. Or go sit in a park to watch people loving their dogs. Go to church. Go volunteer at a soup kitchen. Anything to remind ourselves that we are a part of the world – and all its light – around us.
The real magic of light and love is that, as wonderful and healing as they are to receive, they glow even brighter when given away. So, remember that you are part of the wonderous luminary that is our world. Shine brightly. Be willing to share your light with those who need it. And trust that, when it is you who needs a little extra light, there is plenty to go around.
I wish you a Christmas filled with light and love.
Yoga With Spirit is closed for the holidays and will return to our regular class schedule on Friday 1/3/2020. We look forward to ringing in the New Year with you.