The semester has drawn to a close. Final exams are mercifully over, and I can imagine that the lights of the dorms have gone out now that people have left for break. It seems fitting that as the daylight trickled out, so did the people and friends I’ve met this semester. I have only been at home for a day, yet I already miss the light and warmth that they created in my life this past semester. They carry that light with them as they leave, wherever they go.
When I think about the light of my friends and those whom I care about, I am instinctively drawn to the image of a candle. I attended a study retreat at Marsh Chapel during the reading period, and to remind myself of my intentions Brother Larry gave me a bell and an electric candle. While both of these gifts helped me direct my focus to studying, for some reason I couldn’t turn the candle off. No matter how many times I flicked the switch at the base, the electric light would not extinguish. I mentioned this to a close friend, and she joked, “You can’t stop studying until the candle goes out!” The electric candle remained lit for several days through the week of finals. Luckily, I didn’t need to study for that much time.
I also attended a service for Sanctuary during the week of finals. There came a time during the service when anyone could light a candle and share a moment of presence with other people. I went up and tried lighting one. Then another one. Then still another one. I must have tried and failed to light at least five candles when a woman, Joe, came and helped me. As everyone around us sang the words to the song “Sanctuary,” she patiently took and held candles, even holding one directly above the flame. After several candles and a considerable amount of melted wax, we lit one. In that moment, I felt both gratitude and spiritually present with her, someone whom I had only just met.
Sharing the light that we create with each other in friendship and company may take time, many attempts, and a great degree of patience, like in my experience at Sanctuary. Yet like the electric candle, the bonds that we form when we brighten each other’s lives with our care and compassion leave lasting imprints and are difficult to extinguish. I have tried to appreciate this in my work at Marsh Chapel, as mushy or cliché as it may sound. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed, stressed, or conflicted, to forget that there are people present who can share their light with you to lift your spirits.
For the season of Advent, two of my colleagues from Marsh, Jessica and Kasey, put together a series of Sustainable Advent Devotionals. Each one has a piece of scripture, a reflection, and a practice that one can do during the season. One of my favorites quoted John 8, verse 12: “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’ ” My fellow Marsh Associate Jaimie wrote this in her reflection on this verse:
“Think for a second about the person who is “the light of the world” for you. It could be a child, a parent, a friend, or a partner; whomever this person is I guarantee they do not hear often enough that they are loved and appreciated. Be intentional and remind those “light” people in your life how much they mean to you, because when we love the light in people we are praising the light of God.”
I hope to take her words to heart. Each of us carries a light of the Divine with them, and to embrace and express that we see it every day celebrates the life and light that God created. May we continue to share this candlelight warmth that radiates from each of us in the upcoming year.