By Laura Ieraci
Christmas lights came on a little earlier in my neighbourhood this year. Neighbours and businesses decked porches and banisters, light posts and doorways, the trunks of maples and the boughs of evergreens. Christmas trees shimmered behind windows intentionally left bare, so that cheer could pour out onto the street and brighten hearts along the way.
By the end of October, our little town was aglow. The need to inject light and hope into a year, filled with sorrow, fear and loss for many, was unmistakeably clear.
Light does so much to bring hope and comfort to a weary soul, doesn’t it? A gently burning candle calms an anxious spirit. A nightlight brings comfort to a child afraid of the dark. A sunny sky on a winter day can help us (almost) forget the cold. And Christmas lights fill us with excitement and anticipation — anticipation for a season of joy, peace and love.
The true joy, peace and love of the season, of course, is in the coming of the Lord Jesus, Light of the World, the light that never sputters or fades.
In our desire to spread hope and light during this time as well, our parish community launched a Christmas Light Campaign in early December, but with a particular focus. In a world so desperate for hope, we wanted to share in our families and in our community the joy and hope of the true and eternal light, Jesus Christ.
Each household received a Christmas Hope Bag on the feast of St. Nicholas, Dec. 6 — from St. Nicholas himself! It included three beeswax candles, three postcards, a pillar candle and a Christmas ornament.
Parishioners were asked to pray for three people they knew were in need of God’s light this season and to burn a beeswax candle for each of them in church. Then, in order to spread the Light of Christ, they were asked to send each of these people a postcard, letting them know prayers were offered on their behalf.
The pillar candle was for parishioners to burn in their home for their family’s personal prayer intentions and as a reminder to focus on the coming of the true Light in these weeks before Christmas. The bright red ornament — stamped with the hopeful message of Christ’s birth — was intended to adorn their Christmas tree and add a little joy to the season.
The Christmas Light Campaign was a simple idea, inspired by what has become obvious during this year of worry and frenzy: People need hope — real hope that will last. And as Christians we know that this real, lasting hope is only available in Jesus. It is for us, who received the Light of Christ in baptism, to share this gift with others.
Even after all of the Christmas lights have been rolled up, boxed and put away for the year, the Light of Christ will continue to shine. He is the Eternal Light and all of our hopes rest in him.
In just a few days, we will proclaim, “Christ is born!” May the Light of the Christ Child born in Bethlehem shine upon all of us and our families this Christmas and throughout the New Year.
Laura Ieraci is a journalist in the Chicago area, an alumna of The Lay Centre, and a parishioner of St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church in Whiting, Indiana, where her husband serves as the parish administrator.
Denise Seeger lights a beeswax candle in St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church, as part of the parish’s Christmas Light Campaign.
Photos courtesy Laura Ieraci