At the stationery counter of a museum gift shop last year I asked a sales associate to explain the “buy one box of Christmas cards and get half off the second box” promotional being offered. I didn’t understand the final sale price - by my calculation the total of the receipt just didn’t add up. As we discussed the math, I felt the woman trying to decide whether I was friend or foe because I dared challenge the logic of the “deal”. In fact, I was neither. I was just one more customer trying to buy something on sale.
When we turned the corner in our conversation and got to a meeting of the minds about the price, we exchanged a small smile of mutual relief and finished the transaction. Before I turned to leave she said rather shyly, “Your skin has such a nice glow.”
I was surprised by the compliment and realized that perhaps she hoped I would share my “secret” with her. Like most women I’m drawn to the usual “girl stuff”, especially anything that promises a miracle. And indeed as part of a holiday cosmetics promotional, I’d just purchased a new product that practically guaranteed a radiant glow. Maybe my new friend noticed the glow because I’d used too much, but I was deeply touched by her personal outreach and quietly said “thank you”. At the time it seemed the better part of grace to simply acknowledge her kindness and be on my way.
As I returned to the city streets I thought about this encounter and where our glow really comes from, especially when we grieve. In the waning daylight hours I watched people walking along, staring at smart phones that cast an eerie greenish glow on their faces. I saw others with the reflected glow of lights and tinsel shining into their cold-kissed faces.
When we grieve, really what we’re seeking is the light that inspires our glow, “In your light we see light” (Psalm 36:9 NRSV). Christmas is about the light of the world, the great gift of God’s love illuminating our darkness. Could there be a better time to access the real source of a deep, lasting glow than now, today, at this season of love and joy and light?
Within our grief we find the glow of light when hope for the future conquers our sadness, if only for a moment. Our glow becomes brighter still when we move toward acceptance and its life-renewing peace. The light of Christmas may come to us in small, private moments when our heart is strangely touched by joy. We glow when God’s love reaches into our heart with the mystery of divine comfort and assurance of life beyond the death of our loved one.
In my brief retail experience with a lovely woman in the secular world of pre-Christmas shopping, I discovered again the truth about God’s light, the light that makes us glow from within. Christmas comes when someone reaches out to us in love. Expect an unexpected blessing. Christmas comes when we reach out to someone else in love. Be a blessing to others. The glow of God’s love lights the way through our grief at Christmas and always.
By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Keep me this day, O God, in the light of your love. Amen.