Resistance, Beauty, and Light

christmas-lights         One of my favorite Christmas traditions is outside Christmas lights, but for a number of years, I couldn’t bring myself to go out into the cold to loop lighted strands around the bushes in front of our house. Then manufacturers developed the lighted “net” that you could just drape over your bushes so the lights were evenly spaced without quite so much work. That is, unless your bush was like one of mine, shaped like an overgrown evergreen that required a number of these nets to cover. After that overgrown evergreen bush didn’t survive a particularly hard winter a few years ago, we had a rather large space left. It was then I found my perfect solution to bringing light to the dark evenings in December: a small outdoor tree with brightly colored lights. I carry that tree out to the empty space, and in an homage to the overgrown evergreen that used to occupy this spot, I plug in the tree and bask in the glow of red, blue, and green lights.

It seems simple, this bringing of light to the dark world of winter. As I look across the street, I am cheered by the Christmas lights I see my neighbors have taken the time to put out, and I see how taking time to create a beautiful array of lights is our gift to each other. The beauty of those lights resists the darkness.

This reminds me of a story I heard from the founder of a nonprofit organization called Women International (womenforwomen.org). Zainab Salbi shared the story of her visit to a war-torn country where she met with some of the women affected to find out what supplies she could bring them to help. She suggested vitamins or other practical items, but the women she visited told her to bring them lipstick, saying something like, “When the snipers look at us through their scopes, we want them to know they are shooting at a beautiful woman.” These women resisted the darkness of their situation by recognizing their beauty and doing something that would make them feel that beauty.

So many times people think that resistance must be negative. We’ve witnessed protests and the burning of effigies. We’ve read harsh words and watched disrespectful commentary. Somewhere along the line human beings lost the idea that one of the best forms of resistance is beauty and light. When we create beauty with lights outside our homes at Christmas, we are also resisting darkness. Could we recapture the notion of resisting what troubles us by creating beauty for ourselves and for others?

The very birth of Jesus is a type of resistance. Those looking for the Messiah expected a king to march in and break the rule of Rome; God Incarnate came as baby. Others thought that the birth of a king would take place within all the trappings of wealth; the Son of God was born in a stable and placed in a manger. The Father resisted complying with human assumptions about what a king should be in order to reveal himself, his grace, his love. The Son willingly emptied himself of his glory, resisting human tendencies to take honor and glory (Philippians 2:7). The Spirit moved the hearts of the shepherds and the wise men to see the beauty of this resistance, “the Light of the World” (John 8:12), and bow before it (Matthew 2:11, Luke 2:15).

Everyone knows that light dispels darkness, but the Christmas story shows how resistance can choose the way of beauty and light. It’s not always convenient or practical, and it certainly breaks the mode of fitting in with a typical human response. The tradition of decorating with lights honors that, and our challenge is to carry that same desire to create beauty and light beyond the end of December, not just for ourselves but for our neighbors and for the world.

~by Nan Kuhlman

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