The Power of Light

In just over a week we’ll mark the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, the one with the least amount of daylight. The Winter Solstice launches a season that is full of spiritual themes—looking toward the return of light; and the birth of innocence, purity, and hope. Whether or not one celebrates Christmas as a religious holiday, these themes, with their promises, can provide great sustenance for all people—as well as points for inner reflection as we move toward the coming year.

Edith Wharton once penned the powerful phrase, “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” What a wonderful prompt for asking ourselves: How do I spread light to others? How might I be the candle? How might I reflect light? So often we think that such questions must necessitate grand answers—but spreading light can be as simple as letting an elder go ahead of you in the crowded post-office line, or holding a door open at a store for someone weighed down with packages. A smile spreads light. Pointing out or acknowledging small but sweet touches of beauty spreads light.

May we be fed by grace this week, by the displays of light both literal and metaphorical that surround us this season. May we seek to spread light in both small and large ways. May we see the beauty around us with the innocent eyes of a child, and may we all tend the flames of our own — and others’— hope. As the Talmud reminds us, “A light for one is a light for a hundred.”

— Rev. Maggie Oman Shannon