When I was new to Alaska, I would spend a lot of time gazing up at the heavens looking for the Northern Lights. I would drive out to the darkest places outside Anchorage to peer up into the sky hoping to catch a glimpse of them. But they eluded me.
It was that first Christmas in Alaska I recall reading the scripture on Christmas Eve. This time the words took on new meaning.
"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:2)"
Alaska can be a dark place in the winter. I began to understand the longing for that day in winter when the light would begin to return.
One night, driving home with a friend from a performance of "The Nutcracker", I was looking out the window and I thought I saw something in the sky. It was a little cloudy that night.
The city lights reflected on the snow and the clouds, giving off an eerie glare. It was not a good night for Aurora watching, really. But in the midst of all that, I saw a wisp of light waving and dancing like a little fluorescent flag.
"Could that be the Northern Lights?" I asked my friend.
She made some kind of sound, and quickly turned the car off the main road and headed out to a neighborhood where it was darkest. We got out of the car in the 10-degree cold and stared up at the sky.
Suddenly, the sky burst into a most incredible display of indescribable colors. We watched, mouths agape, awe-stricken. It seemed to me that the curtains of light came right down around us and danced and sang. I don't know how long we watched before the whole thing disappeared back into the darkness.
And suddenly, there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying "Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace to [those] of good will." (Luke 2:13-14.)
That's what it must have been like for the shepherds "watching over their flocks by night" when Jesus was born. There was no ambient light from the city on that hill top. It must have been really, really dark.
People find themselves in deep darkness for a myriad of reasons. Sometimes the dark night of the soul can feel like an eternity. It can swallow us up and make us believe that the darkness has triumphed.
But the truth is: darkness can not overcome light. When we light a candle, grab a flashlight or flip on a switch, the darkness fades. Light overcomes darkness, not the other way around.
If you find yourself walking in some kind of deep darkness this season...I am sorry, I feel for you. I've been there myself. But there is good news: no one has to stay in the dark forever.
"In Him was Light, and that light was the light of all people. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:4,5). Sometimes you find the Light, and sometimes, the Light finds you.
Kay Shock is a pastor at Soldotna United Methodist Church.