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Monday, December 26, 2016

Longing for Light(s)

(As we pause to catch our collective breath this week, we hope you'll permit a few Christmas reflections from Sister Ann Marie to replace our usual reporting of events at the Passaic Neighborhood Center for Women.)

Longing for Light(s)


Around this time of year, many people face a common dilemma – the fully-functioning Christmas tree lights we placed in storage in January or February have become non-functioning Christmas tree lights in December.  So, we make sure that all bulbs are present and secure in their socket, we plug them in again and hope for the best. When this does not produce the desired result, we consider whether it is worth our time to troubleshoot further or to brave the hordes of Christmas shoppers and buy new lights. 

But lights connected to some “pre-lit” trees can present an addition level of frustration.  That is, some pre-lit trees have strings of lights permanently affixed to the branches.  When lights malfunction on these trees, you must decide whether to buy a new tree, purchase and attach strings of lights that may or may not match the functioning lights, or employ potentially extensive troubleshooting.

Those who know me well can attest that my personality type is one of an “off-the-charts” problem solver.  Those who know me best know that I live in a small convent community of “off-the-charts” problem solvers.  So it should come as no surprise that, when presented with a pre-lit Christmas tree that had become a “partially-lit” Christmas tree in our convent home, we rolled up our sleeves and tried to figure it out.  Knowing that just one missing bulb can make the whole string malfunction, we checked to be sure that all sockets contained bulbs, filling those that did not.  Then, we double-checked that all bulbs were secure in their sockets.  Following this painstaking procedure, I would like to have reported that all bulbs glowed like the Star of Bethlehem – but, none of them offered even a sliver of a twinkle. 

This did not make sense!  After all, Christmas tree lights work in parallel circuits. (Everyone knows this, right?)  When all bulbs are present and secure in their sockets, those with intact filaments should light while those whose filaments are broken will never light again.  So, why were none of the lights of many of these strands still unlit?  Our next step was to check the fuses embedded in the plug.  How exciting it was when replacing one set of fuses made a difference, lighting at least 75% of the unlit strands! At this point, we had spent so much time problem solving that we had begun to consider how to best position the tree that the still-unlit parts could not be seen from the front.  But, the unlit parts were distributed throughout the tree, so no matter which way we turned it, dark patches faced the front.

Retrieving a strand of similar lights from storage and determining that they lit, we began to test every single socket of the tree bulbs with a bulb that should have lit.  We didn’t count, but I would guess we were up to the 30th socket when the lights went on!  There were smiles and shouts and high-fives . . . and a small strand of still-dark light bulbs! 

Yes, we continued to troubleshoot and no, we did not completely solve the problem.

Our extensive problem-solving session had produced only a partial solution, but we were out of time, energy and answers.  The tree’s lighting was so much better than when we had started.  By repositioning lit branches around unlit branches, we were able to hide the flaws and have a presentable, but far from perfect, Christmas tree for 2016.

And, in the process, we discovered that an imperfect Christmas tree is a perfect Christmas prayer.

In the midst of imperfect preparations and celebrations this Christmas season, we invite you to join us in our perfect Christmas prayer, which encourages us to:
  • Prefer light over darkness. Not once did we consider an unlit Christmas tree as a viable option.    Since Christmas is about the coming of the “true light which enlightens everyone” (Jn 1), we must prefer light over darkness – always and all ways. 
  • Long for the Light.  Obsessing over Christmas tree lights during the fourth week of Advent allowed us to long more deeply for the Light to come at Christmas.  After all, why were we doing any of this – or why do we do anything that we do – if not for our longing for Jesus, the Light of the World?
  • Persevere in spite of imperfection.  What better example do we have of this than the story of the birth of Jesus? That story is filled with imperfections!  An unwed mother, her betrothed about to divorce her, going into labor while traveling, no room to stay, giving birth in a stable, fleeing to Eqypt and the unspeakable killing of “the innocents” – these are decidedly not the ingredients of perfection. Yet, both Joseph and Mary persevered because there was simply no way that they could allow the darkness to overcome the light.  Through their perseverance in spite of serious imperfections along the way, we are saved.

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