A light that binds us together

This year, the arrival of dusk carries a different kind of weight, and holiday gatherings will be subdued. So where can we turn for a bit of light?

Bebeto Matthews/AP/File
“Even in darkness it is possible to create light and encourage compassion,” Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel wrote in his 2012 memoir.

I’ve been thinking a lot about darkness these days. For one thing, it literally comes early now in the Northern Hemisphere. Gone are the gauzy summer sunsets. December nights instead unfurl like a heavy blanket. This year, the arrival of dusk carries a different kind of weight. 

A resurgence of the coronavirus has meant that many of the holiday gatherings that typically draw us together in defiance of the December cold and dark have been scaled back or canceled altogether. While public health officials have signaled significant medical progress, with the impending arrival of two vaccines, they also warn that the next few months may be dark indeed.

So at this moment, where can we turn for a bit of light?

Elie Wiesel was no stranger to darkness. The Romanian-born writer and Nobel laureate was sent to a concentration camp when he was 15 years old. He lost his father, mother, and one sister to the death camps before he was liberated by Allied forces. That time period was so enshrouded in darkness for him that he named his seminal masterpiece chronicling the ordeal “Night.”

But night eventually gives way to dawn.

As an adult, Wiesel was determined to be a light for humanity. He became an advocate for Holocaust remembrance, so that humankind might learn from its past transgressions. He spoke out wherever he saw injustice and suffering, using his stature to take his concerns to heads of state.

He reflected on his life experiences in his 2012 memoir, “Open Heart.” “Even in darkness,” he wrote, “it is possible to create light and encourage compassion.”

We can all carry those words close this winter. It’s a spirit that we at the Monitor aim to knit into every story we produce, to highlight where light pierces through darkness. 

One such flicker came out in Greenwood, Mississippi, as parishioners honor 150 years of love, hope, and fellowship at Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church. As Sylvester Hoover, deacon at Little Zion, puts it: “Little Zion was the brightest thing in our community.”

Another flame glimmers from London, where former children of war share how an instinctive resilience has carried them through lifetimes of hardship – and how it can serve others during the pandemic.

Both literal and figurative lights shine brightly in our cover story, as Sara Miller Llana explores how families and communities are choosing to find joy, uplift, and hope in the pandemic Christmas.

Many are embracing the chance to illuminate the night with holiday lights as a kind of gift to their neighbors and the community. For others, the unique circumstances of the moment offer an opportunity to dim the commercialism that has come to surround the holiday and to embrace instead the spirit of the season and each other. 

For those who can’t be with the ones they love this season, we can turn again to Wiesel, who reminds us that “even in exile, friendship exists and can become an anchor.”

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