One great strand of lights
A few weeks ago, I took part in the holiday ritual that happens in homes around the world this time of year. I ventured into the storage area in the basement of my house and dug out the boxes of Christmas decorations, the nativity scene, and tree ornaments that had all been quietly stashed away for the past 11 months or so.
At the bottom of one such box, I unearthed a tangled mess of multi-colored lights that adorn my tree each year. But the real excitement, however, came as I plugged in each string of lights to confirm they still worked. Everything seemed to be in good order from the previous year until, much to my dismay, I came to the final strand and discovered… none of the lights lit up.
Determined to finish my decorating and stubbornly unwilling to make a run to the store for more lights, I decided instead to sit down and check each of the 100 individual bulbs. So I gently twisted and pulled each one, to see if there was possibly just a bad connection or a single blown fuse.
And, sure enough, somewhere around the 84th one, the slight turning of the bulb revealed a loose connection and the whole strand suddenly shone with bright blues and pinks and greens. With a little maneuvering, even the bulb that appeared to be useless joined its neighbors in coming back to life.
In all the time I worked with those bulbs, it occurred to me that perhaps this less-than-perfect, tangled heap of Christmas lights wasn’t so different from our collective lives. The bottom line is: we’re all deeply connected. And when even one among us is quite literally disconnected—hurting, isolated, or otherwise not shining their brightest—the rest of us suffer.
We are only at our best when everyone is cared for or tended to. And we can really only shine as bright as the faintest “bulb” among us.
I’m certain Jesus never had to deal with the frustration of jumbled up strands of lights not illuminating properly. But I have a hunch he might have had this same idea in mind when he talked about caring for the “least of these,” as we ensure the hungry have food or the lonely are visited or the sick are cared for.
You or I may not currently be the hungry or despairing or sick ones. But as long as there are those among us who are not cared for, may we still hunger for justice and work for peace and live with compassion for all people. Because it’s not until every person lives with such daily realities that we might see how brightly we’re all able to shine.
-Katy Warren, associate pastor