The power popped, and the air was warm, and 14 of us piled into the thick dark of my parents’ windowless bedroom.
We tried to keep the toddlers away from the one lit candle. We tried to keep our 16-year-old eastern European (and non-English speaking) guest from thinking the world was ending.
We didn’t know that my dad and some of the other men, watching the roaring blackness out the window, had quickly piled up the mattresses just outside the bedroom doorway.
Dec. 21 is always the darkest day of the year, but this was taking the cake.
“But I don’t want the power to be out. I want to play in there,” my 3-year-old niece said. “I don’t want to stay in here.”
We made it a game. We sang songs. But I could see on the faces of the men, who looked in on us every few seconds, that something a lot bigger was happening outside.
Power poles were snapping. Trees were bending. Shingles were peeling off roofs just streets away.
And then it was all over.
That night was supposed to be our “Christmas Eve” – everyone had in-laws and other houses to disperse to before the real thing. But as we stepped over the mattress piles and used up the last few matches for a candlelit dinner, even the little ones forgot about the presents under the tree.
“That could’ve been so much worse.”
“That was basically our entire family in one room.”
“Between you and me, the greatest danger passed over when we were all still running for the bedroom.”
We were fine. We were blocks away. But we all still trembled a little knowing death had passed over, and we all huddled around the light we had. Plans had changed.
What a great day for plans to change.
It’s amazing how much the trappings of the holiday, the trappings of life don’t matter when huge, black, consuming death comes roaring past your house.
That tiny flame – flickering humbly in the bedroom while we sit in our helplessness – it suddenly becomes so vital, so central – sanity and salvation and hope and peace all in one.
Like Jesus. Jēzus Kristus.
Sure, the tent that is our earthly home may be destroyed. Life as we know it could be drastically changed. Possessions splintered. The landscape of our family altered.
We tremble at the thought.
But as my mom started singing to the wailing littles in our family who didn’t understand the ferocity of the dark, “Jesus loves me, this I know … ”
He does. He does love us. This we know.
And this is what we celebrate. The Light that came into the thick, deadly darkness. The Light that is our everything even – especially – when everything else gets blown away.
Something – Someone – much bigger.