We Are About Relationships
Early in September, right at the beginning of my renewal leave, I traveled to the Isle of Iona off the coast of Scotland. Actually, it’s off the coast of the Isle of Mull which is off the coast of Scotland. It is remote, to say the least. It took two planes, a train, a ferry, a bus and another ferry to get to this holy place where Christian monks first built an abbey in the fifth century.
Today there is an ecumenical group of Christians who live at the abbey, and every day they host worship services for anyone who would like to attend. On the first night that I was there, I decided to go to the 9:00 p.m. service. I left the Bishop’s House, the small retreat house where I was staying, and trekked up the hill to the abbey. The sun was still setting and the cows watched me placidly as I made my way through their field to the abbey’s back door.
When the worship service was over, I stepped out into the night. The weather had been cloudy all day, and now it was nearly pitch black outside. I hadn’t even thought to bring a flashlight. I mean, when in our day-to-day lives do we need a flashlight to see at night? We have so much ambient light in our neighborhoods and streets, so many cars coming to-and-fro, that we rarely experience pitch black. I admit I was a bit scared. In my head I knew that no “boogie men” were going to bother to take a train, two ferries and a bus to get to Iona. There’s probably no safer place in the world. But walking in total darkness, no matter where you are, is scary.
Then I heard a voice behind me. It was one of the women who had checked into the Bishop’s House at the same time I had that morning. She had remembered a flashlight. She called my name and asked if I wanted to walk with her so that we could together see our way through the cow pasture back to the house. I was so grateful, not only for her company but for her light.
The prophet Isaiah said, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” There are so many different ways to “walk in darkness.” We’ve all had seasons of our lives that have felt dark, when we could not find our way and weren’t sure where the next step was. No matter where you are, walking in darkness is scary. And when you’re in darkness, even a little light can make a huge difference.
During the season of Advent, we watch the light grow among us. We light one more candle as each week passes. We sing, “I want to walk as a child of the light” at the end of each service. And on Christmas Eve, we will light the Christ candle and watch the light spread around the sanctuary. That’s not something we do just because it’s beautiful. We do it because Christ’s light is given to each one of us, and we are meant to take it out into the world.
As you hold your candle in your hand on Christmas Eve, I invite you to ponder how you can bear the light of Christ in the world. Even a small flame is enough to dispel the darkness. It’s amazing how one little flashlight made all the difference for me on that dark night in Scotland. There may be someone in your path who is walking in darkness, who is scared and unsure where she is or where to turn. It just might be Christ’s light in you that can help her find her way.