“Tis the season”, so they say. Here it is December & with it the arrival of what we now know as “the holidays”. Kwanzaa, Christmas and Chanukah come calling and with them the promiscuity of merchandising that marks our culture.
In the midst of all the seasonal hype it is easy to loose some of the symbolism of the season. Lights and light form a very powerful part of each of these festivals. No doubt these festivals, at the darkest part of the year, have their origin in some pre-historic pagan need to drive out the darkness. What I want to look at now is the power of light and what it means.
Light stands for many things in religious life: life, hope, faith & also memory. We who are, or have been care-givers, can relate to this in a powerful and personal way. Many of us now are watching the “light” of a loved one slowly fade. It is not easy. It demands great attention and it is filled with the reality of loss.
It is easy, especially at this time of year, to turn into ones self and allow the darkness of that loss or despair overwhelm us. Yet, that is where the lights of the season can speak to a higher reality. Let me suggest that the lights we light at this season are really a part of the light of our loved ones soul. We light these lights and the light they give off help to drive out the darkness of loss. We engage in the power and beauty of memory. It is a memory that may be tinged with some sadness, especially if the person we remember is no longer available to us. But the light of their life and their soul has been part of our own journey. Their light is now within us, and, as long as we remember, that light will remain.
That is also part of what we do as care-givers. We bring the light of our own soul to those to whom we minister. This is, in a very real sense, sacred work; which is why the command to “honor father and mother” is so central to all religious traditions. I hope this message of light finds some resonance to those who are caring for a loved one and may you find, in this season of family, life and memory, the power and strength to continue to bring the light of comfort to those in need.
Rabbi Richard F Address, D.MIn