Marriage & Family Life: Follow the Light
by Adam Storey | December 22, 2020
My dad’s favorite day of the year is Dec. 21 - the winter solstice.
“The shortest day of the year,” he always reminds me. “From here on out the days get longer!” Living in the woods of central Minnesota, it mainly means he can start looking at seed catalogs and dream about planting his garden!
I do admire him in that instead of focusing on the darkness, he turns his face to the promise of greater light. It’s no coincidence that in the darkest moment of the year, we also celebrate the birth of Christ, who is the light of the world (Jn. 8:12).
Journeying through this Advent in a particularly broken, bruised and divided world, my family is focusing on the gift of Jesus as our light in this darkness.
But my heavenly Father has also convicted me in recent months that instead of lamenting the darkness “out there,” I must first heal the divisions in my own heart. I must ask Jesus to shine his light into the darkest recesses of my heart, the corners where I have secretly tucked away my sins and judgments, my knuckles white as I hold fast to “my” ways, doubting the Lord’s promise that the cost of discipleship will not break me.
But his reassuring whisper to trust him slowly pries away my fingers to allow his healing rays to cauterize my wounded heart. For the more whole I am, the more I'm able to respond to Jesus’ call to also bring his light to the world (Matt. 5:14).
This light of Christ or “flame of faith,” as the rite of baptism says, is a gift I am supposed to “keep alive in my heart.”
But what are signs of a lively faith?
St. Paul gives us a model when he says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal. 5:22).
It’s easy this season to see the flame burn bright in my children. Their faces are radiant with joy as they gaze upon the Christmas tree. There is peace in their eyes as they gently play with their wood nativity scene. There is love in their hearts as they snuggle in to read “one more” Christmas story.
But it’s not as easy to see it amidst the pain in our families, our marriages, our parishes and our cities. Yet, there is hope remembering we aren’t the only generation to cry out, "Come, Lord Jesus, come!"
As Isaiah reminds us each Advent: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isa. 9:1). Even the Israelites, God’s chosen people, wandered and waited thousands of years, longing for the Messiah.
In all times and all places, the human heart has ached for Jesus, just like ours do today.
In these last days of Advent, may our weary hearts “prepare him room,” so that we may more perfectly reflect his light and love to our neighbor.
And come Christmas, may we peacefully and joyfully look to him, who is the Light, to guide us no matter the crosses of this life. May we echo St. John Henry Newman’s poetic words, “Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom, Lead thou me on. The night is dark and I am far from home, Lead thou me on.”
Kara Storey is a freelance writer who worships at the Basilica of St. John Parish in Des Moines.