Instead, all I have is a symbol.
I spent a lot of Christmas seasons here in PA. I have so many memories, from the year I wore a bathrobe to play Mary in NW PA, to the Lansdale Christmas Eve programs. But the thing I keep thinking of, the thing I've missed in all the years since we left, are the welcome lights.
It's not just a Christmas thing, I know, but it was always Christmas-y to me. My friends would keep a candle (electric, and with a timer) in each window on the front of the house. Welcome lights. I don't know how to explain my fascination with them--every eye of the house awake and watching for your arrival. The handful of single lights was more eloquent, more beautiful than any festive display I've ever seen.
This is Christmas. We fill it with lights and cheer--the cinnamon-scented glow of family gatherings, the rush of music and shopping and presents, a hundred dreams-coming-true holiday movies. But if we're honest, it's really just a small light in an ocean of night.
The world is still dark. It's evil, and there's pain enough out there to swallow us without a thought. But the funny thing about darkness is that it only takes a little light to hold it at bay. Light just one candle, and you have an anchor, a reference spot of solid things to rely on.
This is Christmas. Not that God banished the darkness, but that he came into it with us. Not that our pains are exorcised by the music of sleigh bells, but that we have hope to hold next to them. Until the Second Advent makes us free, we hold on to the First Advent, because it's the promise that it will.
It would be nice if the movies were true, and Christmas was about homecoming, and everything being all right again. We make what happiness we can, but the truth is that we are still out in the cold, still hoping to get home.
But God has set a light in the window, to call us, to guide us, to reassure us that we are wanted. A small thing--a baby, helpless and poor. Because that's all our God needs to overturn the darkness.
So if you're dealing with darkness this Christmas season--some sorrow, or anger, or loneliness, the welcome light is for you. Christmas doesn't give us cure-alls, it give us hope. We are not alone in the darkness, and home is real. Comfort. And joy.