The Light of Hope
It was a dark and rainy December evening in 2011, late on Sunday afternoon. I arrived at Huckleberry Hall anticipating my first Winter Spiral with curiosity and some amount of trepidation. I had seen photos and observed the preparation—small children, burning candles, and tree boughs did not strike me as the best combination for an indoor activity. I took my place on a wood bench at the back and sat in stillness as the lights dimmed and the children made their way into the room.
One by one, each child took a candle, held in a red apple, and processed through the spiral, long dresses swirling dangerously near the flames. As each child bent down to place a candle among the beautiful boughs I held my breath, surveying the room for a bucket of water and fire extinguisher. I found myself counting the children and eyeing my watch, praying that we would avert what to me looked like a safety hazard and potential disaster. How would I ever explain to the Board, let alone the fire department, that I allowed the school to go up in flames?!
As the last child carefully placed a candle in one of the few remaining spots, I breathed a sigh of relief. In the hush I gazed around the room, at the youthful faces filled with reverence and joy, illuminated by flickering lights. I paused. The human and spiritual connectedness was palpable; yet more so was the collective sense of hope for the future embodied in each beautiful, unique child just a few years into life’s journey. Given my preoccupation with all that might go awry, I almost missed this gift of inspiration.
As we move through the increasing dark toward winter solstice and its promise of returning light, I hope we can all take a moment to look up and celebrate the hope and joy that surround us. It lives in the faces of children, friends, and strangers, and in the smiles and warm embraces we offer one another. It is all too easy to get distracted by the possibilities of disappointment, discouragement, and even danger, and miss the simple beauty of darkness becoming light.
After nine years of Winter Spirals, I can now relax into the experience, trusting that all will be fine. That is my wish for all of us.
“The first light of Advent is the light of stone—
Light that lives in crystals, seashells, and bones.
The second light of Advent is the light of plants—
Plants that reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance.
The third light of Advent is the light of beasts—
All await the birth, from the greatest and in least.
The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind—
The light of hope that we may learn to love and understand.”