This week I finally took N. D. Wilsons advice and sought to capture the words and expressions of the stories that made me what I am. My grandpa opened his eyes one day in his early twenties to face a roaring wall of flames. As he lay on the on the gasoline soaked concrete under an overturned Soviet jeep, he exclaimed in prayerful desperation, “Is this really it?!” He says that right as he said it, he felt like he was enveloped in a ray of light, after which he was somehow able to worm his way out of under the Jeep. He managed to pull off his flaming cloths with his scorched hands, shriveled and peeled with burning skin. He awoke two weeks later in an army hospital, with 28% of his body burned and a room full of doubting doctors. His partner who was with him in the Jeep was dead minutes after he got to the hospital. Three and a half months later he was released from the hospital with a early medical discharge from the army.
“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.” (Haldir of Lothlórien)¹
Today we come to an occasion of remembrance and celebration that has shaken the world for at least two millennia. For 2000 thousand years this glimmering light of wonder and joy comes to us in the dark and dreary hour of winter. Indeed the world is full of peril and indeed there are many dark places. Sometimes it seems that these dark places reach their ugly tentacles out far enough to knick or wound us in our daily striving. And yet this celebration endures. Christmas persists, even in the lives of those who want nothing to do with the Christ.
Our wise elf-friend notes above that though the darkness spreads to all the land, everywhere we look, we see the hope filled evidence of love that is mingled with the grief. A love that does not let go. A love that perseveres. Though there is darkness, yet there is persistent and undeniable hope. And for those who are able to see the light of this hope, there is given this ability to navigate the darkness with purpose and meaning.