Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps…Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:7,13)
Throughout the Gospel Jesus often likens the Kingdom of God to a lamp burning in the darkness. He calls it a lamp and a light, but as a child I knew it as a candle.
On Christmas Eve the church services would often end in darkness. The choir would light a candle, and the light would spread. The flame would be passed through the congregation, and the light would grow and spread more. If a candle was blown out by a chance gust, it was quickly relit from another candle in the community. In the deepest darkness of a cold winter night the warm glow of light would encompass the church as the voices sang a beautiful and old hymn. Christ was here, Christmas was here, and the celebrations could begin.
It is dark at night in the desert. Away from the city and the community the night becomes heavy and oppressive. St. John of the cross described his desert experiences as the ‘dark night of the soul.’ Prison is just such a darkness for me, and we all have darkness like this in our lives.
Into all of this darkness comes the light of Christ. The kingdom burns brightly with a light that cannot be put out, only spread. As the community grows in faith and joy the light glows brighter. The light always defeats the darkness. Always.
Even in prison it is a holy night.
Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright. Round yon virgin, mother and Child! Holy infant so tender and mild, sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace. (Hymn 73)