Thursday evening we headed east on the toll road. One of the odd things about my life is that unless I spend time with our two granddaughters, I don't get a day off. So although we had seen the kids over Thanksgiving, we were headed towards Columbus, Ohio.
The sky was thick with dark clouds. The sunlight slipped sideways out of the world. I was sitting, doing some work, reading the paper, and thinking...as Sharon drove.
We took the toll road into Ohio, and then headed south on state highway #49. You miss Fort Wayne but the highway has twists and turns. Takes you through one small town after the other.
I was surprised to find myself delighted by the Christmas tree lights in the yards...and in the homes along the way. The night was very dark. The world was cold. And we would drive by these houses where the Christmas lights -especially the trees decorated with all white lights- seemed to be calling us all inside. Promising warmth. Home. Someplace where we could be ourselves.
A CD of Christmas music -by the Christian rock band 3rd Day- was playing. The lights... the homes...the music...all combined to produce all sorts of feelings and memories.
I found myself thinking of our church's work, right now, to become even more welcoming. To strangers and guests. So that people who are hungry for God, for truth, for grace, will feel like they are home when they walk through our doors. I thought about churches that are like those houses with no lights hung by the windows...churches that look cold and dark and lifeless. And I thought about how churches -and individuals- sends messages out to the world that their hearts are open.
And I thought about times when our family...is together. What it feels like to have everyone under the same roof. Sometimes there are tensions...challenges...but almost always it is so very good!
I thought about the Christmas in Belguim, when I was a boy, and my folks were thinking of adopting a young Belgian child. A boy. He came to the house for a visit. I can't remember his name or face. But for whatever reason my parents chose not to take that step.
I thought about my Mom. Sometimes, you know, there are moments when you miss someone so much you think your heart will burst. I was thinking about my Mom...who was wonderful and strange and passionate and distracted and always late and full of love for God. Then, as we stopped at a stoplight in a small Ohio town, I looked over at a store window. The owner had hung four old stockings in the window as a part of a Christmas decoration. One of the stockings
-a red one- happened to have the name Anita inscribed in large script. My Mom's name was Anita. I smiled. The light turned green and we began moving south, again.
The lights along the way make the darkness more than bearable, don't they?
Interesting how Jesus, John explains, was light coming into the darkness. And the darkness has not overcome it.