Someone I knew, someone I held and cared for when he was a baby, then a whip-smart child, took his own life last week. This is the third time a person I’ve known has passed beyond the veil in this way. I should not be surprised at how weary the news makes me now, or has made me each time. But in the midst of the Christmas season, when the manger holds a baby, a bringer of peace and light, I am reminded that plenty of us stand outside the stable, shivering under bleak stars, wishing a bit of their heat would be upon us if only for a minute.
Encountering the darkness of winter nights, especially when life feels daunting, is a profound thing. When the cold bites, commanding you step back from the door and return to your quilts, you get a taste of the bitterness. When you step outside, especially if you’re away from the lights and crowds of the city, you find yourself enveloped by the ink-black, frigid air. You are at its mercy.
Much like humans encountering the Fay in our old stories, we can admire what’s enamoring about these evenings while also knowing, even if it’s only in the way back of our minds, that they are dangerous. We are not of them. They are not for us.
These nights are the embodiment of our disconnected nature, marked by a sense of fear and loneliness that's only amplified when we are hurting. I’m not implying that there isn’t healing to be had, warm arms to embrace those so frozen they ache—most of us wouldn’t get through if there wasn’t such a hope and if the hope didn’t come to fruition from time to time—but the presence of one doesn’t negate the reality of the other.
It can be hard at Christmas, just as it is hard at other times. We can lose loved ones. We can see the poor huddled under overpasses. We can see the pain of our world as clearly on December 25th as we can any other day. Better, maybe.
It’s a reminder, is all. A reminder that our cold winter nights are beautiful in their darkness, but they are frightful, too. Our lives together are simultaneously troubled and lovely in much the same way. Forgetting a piece does the whole a disservice. So be a little sad at Christmas. Shed a tear at the altar in solidarity with your hurting kin. Admire the broken beauty of a story that lifts up love incarnate, born into a night dark and terrible, lit up and wonderful.