The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5
December is the month when darkness descends on the mountains. At 4:30, the shadows they cast are already halfway across the valley. By 5:30, the first star rises up from the southeast. Not actually a star, Venus looks like the headlight of an approaching truck as it crests the shoulder of a distant ridge. But, the bright planet is not the only light sparkling across the shadows. Christmas lights, like lovely swags of fallen stars are draped on fences and eaves. I am a December baby and my favorite birthday present is a trip through the lonely countryside in search of the delicate strings of Christmas lights that brighten the total darkness of a mountain winter.
This afternoon, I visited a local landmark: the old Elementary School, now a community center. Light from Christmas trees and garlands spilled out the wide double doors into the twilight as I climbed the steps. It is Wintertide in Highland and local artists and crafters were set up inside the wood floored gym peddling their hand-made gifts. The thing about living in a small town is that you can’t go anywhere without stopping for a chat. As I shopped, every person I met was a friend. Three of them shared their stories with me. A grandmother, raising two grandchildren, worried about their school progress. A mother, struggling with the rigors and fears of cancer treatments spoke about an upcoming bone marrow transplant. A past student who is running a very successful catering business talked about the challenges of raising a daughter and tending to business. The stories I was told will be told again. Over cups of coffee, in local stores, from telephone to telephone the message will travel like those lights strung from post to porch. And the telling will not be gossip, but will instead bring light to dark places. Folks will offer help and encouragement.
As the nights grow longer, the Christmas lights beckoning from the edges of meadows and mountains make me thankful that my country neighbors know all about how to shine in the darkness.