Have you ever had the experience of the electricity going out at night, leaving you suddenly alone in the dark? It happened to me just a few months ago and because all of the street lights outside of our house had also lost power, I found myself alone in the kitchen, barely able to see my hand in front of my face. I would like to think I am not afraid of being alone in the dark, but that night proved me wrong.
     Fortunately, I was able to feel around and find a book of matches in a drawer and a candle that we keep on the kitchen table. I lit the candle as quickly as I could and was amazed at what a relief I felt. It is incredible how bright the light of one candle is in a totally dark room. I found that I could easily find my way around the house with this single candle, allowing me to find other candles to light. My fear of the dark was extinguished with the help of the candles, and I was able to patiently wait until the power returned a few hours later.
     This story came back to me today for two reasons. The first is because for those of us who are Christians, we have just this week begun to observe the season of Advent. The season of Advent is a time of preparation for the celebration of Christmas and one of its primary symbols is a candle. Each night this week my wife and I have lit a candle and taken a few minutes to sit in quiet reflection about the true spiritual meaning of this time of year. The candle we have lit each night is the same candle on our kitchen table that became my beacon of hope in the midst of the darkness a few months ago, when the power went out.
     The second reason that I remembered my experience in the midst of the power outage was because of the unspeakable darkness of violence that has erupted in our world again these last few days. I find myself now, as I did in my kitchen a few months ago, afraid and feeling overwhelmed by the darkness. At first I’m not sure where to turn or what to do. But then I remember the difference that lighting a single candle made in the midst of such darkness and it inspires me to light candles again . For me now, lighting one candle means doing something kind and loving for someone else, some act of service to another that will bring a small amount of light in to their world and thus, little by little, brightening our world as a whole.
   It has been said that, “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” I know that to be ultimately true, but I have to admit that at times I still struggle not get stuck wringing my hands and cursing the darkness. I firmly believe there is much that needs to be done by all of us, both socially and politically, to address the darkness of violence in our culture. There is much that needs to be changed–within our homes, our communities, and within our hearts. Working for change is another way of being a force for good, a light of hope for our world.

Darkness is real. It is powerful. However, the power of love is still greater. If, during this dark time in our world, you need a reminder of this powerful and hopeful truth, turn off all the lights in your home tonight and light a single candle. And as you do, take a few minutes to reflect on what you can do next to make a positive difference in the darkness around us. How can you light a candle of love and hope?

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