Steve Turnbull: The light is worth fighting for

It never feels very light around here at this time of year. Like many Minnesotans, I drive to my office before sunrise, and I drive home after dark. Unless you have a lunch meeting it’s possible to go days without seeing the sun.

This year feels particularly dark, and it’s much more than meteorology. I know I’m not alone in that opinion, and it doesn’t seem to be one that is limited to either end of the political spectrum. Two different friends from distant, opposite ends of our lively red and blue rodeo shared with me just today, each unbeknownst to the other, how discouraged they feel about our social climate. We are all deeply disturbed by the waves of sexual harassment and assault allegations that crash now daily on our shores, to say nothing of the victims who have been suffering the waves of these experiences far too long, only now finally bringing a fraction of them to the light of day. Racism is bubbling to the surface in ways many of us have never experienced before. I’m not old enough to remember the Vietnam War era, but I’ve never seen a time when our culture was more divided than it is now. It feels as if the dark is gaining ground daily.

Call me an optimist, but it seems to me that the dark of night is the best time to turn on a light.

We all know good news stories that need telling. Let’s tell them. My daughter is learning and growing because a dedicated middle school teacher left a previous line of work to invest in the betterment of our next generation. His creative and tireless labors don’t garner many headlines, but he is making the present and future of some adolescents brighter, not to mention the world they influence.

A member of our church operates a local landscaping company. He sent his crews out two weeks ago to rake leaves and do a little winterizing for elderly widows in our community, lightening their load and enabling them to stay in their homes another year.

I could go on, and so could you. What stories do you know? What examples can we hold up together? Let’s share those stories. Then, let’s share in them. Let’s write more stories. Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.

What would it look like to light a candle in your corner of the dark? I’m part of a church in White Bear Lake. One Sunday later this month, we’ve decided to cancel our regular worship services, and we are organizing ourselves, and hopefully members of our neighborhood, too, to join together in service to our larger community. The ideas are endless. Some of us will clean a homeless shelter. Some are making meals for firefighters, police officers, hospital staff and the Ronald McDonald House. Some are assembling newborn kits for third-world deliveries. One group is partnering with a local roller rink to open a morning of fun for families currently living at the Ramsey County Service Center. We’re just one community. You probably have more and better ideas for turning on some light where you live. So flip on the switch. Let’s do this together.

I am a Christian, and we Christians are looking forward to the celebration of Christmas. As we prepare for Christmas, we think a lot about light. Our prayers and songs remember the star of Bethlehem. We recall promises made by prophets years ago, promises of light that shines on those who live in deep darkness. I sincerely hope that the light will not stop with our prayers and promises but will extend to our practices as well.

It’s no coincidence that Christians have traditionally celebrated Christmas at the darkest time of the year. Nobody knows the actual birthday of Jesus, but Christians remember what one of his biographers said about his arrival, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

That’s a statement of hope and faith, of course. Not everyone will agree. But I think the light is worth fighting for. I think the light is winning.

 

Steve Turnbull is senior pastor at Community of Grace Lutheran Church in White Bear Lake.


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