This Monday, I had the privilege of going to Amazing Place, a ministry to those who are living with dementia, with our choir from St. Stephen’s School and a number of parishioners from St. Stephen’s Church. There we were with 30 folks who ranged in age from 45 to 80 something, whose memories are now less reliable, singing our hearts out to Christmas carols.
One participant caught my eye. He was probably in his seventies and he could no longer read, but he knew the music. He kept time by pounding out on the table the rhythms to “Rudolf the Red Nosed and Reindeer” and the other songs we sang with utter joy. He captured the glory of the season by his exuberance. Light was breaking into darkness. He beheld it and so did we.
These winter holidays, whether we are observing Advent/Christmas, Hanukah, or Kwanza, invite us to hone our skills at seeing light as being more powerful than darkness; good triumphing over evil. We develop this sensibility through symbols and song, not only through intellectual argument. Our children and students learn to hope and to live a good life by sharing in the light—singing, serving, cooking, eating together, lighting candles, hearing stories. Our children come to name these longings by doing these practices with us. These experiences last, even when darkness falls on our bodies and minds.
As we face the struggles and obligations of this season, I hope we can keep our focus on the light and on the practices that nurture it. Let’s let the other stuff go.