Today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. The church will celebrate Christmas this week, and we are not the only faith tradition with a major holiday near the solstice. Jews celebrate Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. Zoroastrians celebrate Yalda, the birth of the god Mithras. Scandinavians celebrate the return of the light on St. Lucia’s Day (the very name “Lucia” means light). Hindus in the U.S. celebrate the birth of the god Ganesh during the five days of Pancha Ganapati. Zuni and Hopi Indians mark the solstice with the Soyal ceremony. In a few weeks, people in many Asian countries will celebrate the lunar new year. All over the world, people find ways to mark the end of the growing darkness and the return of the light.
Survivors of abuse have many ways to mark the end of darkness: the day we said “No” to abuse. The day we left an unsafe environment. The day we realized we would never have to see our offenders again. And we have many ways to mark the return of the light: the day we felt safe telling our story to someone. The day we felt safe in church again. The day we felt God’s presence returning.
I am lucky: I’ve felt all of those milestones of light. There are some milestones I may never see, but I can celebrate those I have. I celebrate every little way my life is better than it was. I celebrate every victory, no matter how small. And I build hope, one victory at a time.
Darkness doesn’t last forever. The light will always return. Even a tiny candle will overcome darkness. When you walked away from your abusive minister, you lit a candle against darkness. If you found the strength to report the abuse, you lit another candle. When you took charge of your own healing and began to seek the resources you needed, you lit another one.
When the sun comes up tomorrow, it won’t look much different from today. Where I live, we’ll will only have two more seconds of daylight tomorrow. But the next day will have five seconds more, the day after that eight more, the day after that ten more. Every day, the light grows faster. May our hope grow in the same way: every day a little more, until one day it shines like the sun.