when christmas is hard: "look toward the light"

blog when christmas is hard look toward the light“finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” – phiippians 4:8

i don’t know about you, but i’m in a fog.  friday’s tragedy coupled with so much going on here in real life plus the regular holiday craziness has felt bizarre. instead of trying to power through, i decided to accept the haze but keep trying to move forward one baby step at at a time.  i had a post in mind for last friday as part of this when christmas is hard series (centered on “help”, “thanks”  and “wow” from anne lamott’s new book) but it just wasn’t the right one. it’s still not.  and that’s okay.  the truth is i’ve written about gratitude so many times before, and it really does heal & help.

what feels more appropriate right now is the importance of looking to the light when darkness seems to be trying its best to pull so many under.

the darkness cannot win!  but damn, it sure is trying.

at the refuge we sometimes do a labyrinth walk at different locations in north denver.  every time, it is good for my soul. there’s something about the path & the twists & the turns & the quiet & the space-to-hear-from-God that always seems to be exactly what i need at that certain moment.  at the summer labyrinth walk, i arrived scattered & tired after hearing the news of the death of my grandma on top of about 10 other hard things.  things felt dark & tiring, but as i started walking, i heard these words “look toward the light.”  in those moments, i just take it as God trying to show me something, so i listened.  and each time i made a major turn on the path i intentionally stopped, and turned my whole body and head up toward the sun.

“look toward the light.”

each time there was a big curve on the path, i stopped yet again, and looked to the light.  i felt the sun on my face.  i felt the light seep into my skin. i felt what was true, noble, pure, lovely slip back in.  i felt God.

i looked toward the light a whole bunch of times that morning & when i left, my head was higher and my shoulders were less slumped.

in october, we did a full moon labyrinth walk at a local church. it was a cold and crisp night and i almost didn’t go.  i felt the same thing this time, a draw to stop and look up, except that i turned toward the moon instead of the sun. i turned my face toward the sky and reflected on the light–the good things that did exist in the midst of the bad, the beautiful slivers of hope & peace & love seeping in in the midst of the ugly & hard & painful things in my life and the lives of my friends, the light that somehow shines through on dark nights if we strain to see it.

light is powerful.  light is healing.  light is hope.  light is what is right, true, noble, pure, lovely, and praiseworthy.

“look toward the light.”

but looking to the light is not easy.  the darkness is a draw.  head down, shoulders slumped, burdens heavy–oh, the pull that direction is sometimes so strong.

yeah, looking to the light means taking the time to stop, to beckon our heads to look up, to turn our hearts and minds and bodies toward the light, to soak in the warmth that even a sliver of light can provide, to remember what’s good, what’s true, what’s noble, what’s pure, what’s lovely.  to meditate on those things.  to remember the small graces, the warm smiles, the unexpected kindnesses, the things that are instead of the things that aren’t.

this month at the refuge we have been talking about Jesus as light–as truth, as hope, as presence.  it’s been really good for my soul in all kinds of ways, remembering that no matter how hard this world might try to extinguish the light, it can’t.  Jesus’ truth, hope, presence will always shine through the darkness even though it might not be as bright and clear as we sometimes wish it would be.

every saturday night for advent we’ve been sharing this scripture as a closing blessing.  it’s zechariah’s song in luke 1:78-79.

By the tender mercy of our God,

the dawn from on high will break upon us,

to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,

to guide our feet into the way of peace.

my friends, if you are hurting this christmas, i am not saying that looking to the light will change everything, but i am hoping it might help.  as you look that direction, may dawn somehow break through as you remember what’s true, what’s good, what’s lovely.






Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • Thank you Kathy for sharing. Christmas is hard when you are away from your family and friends when you are serving in another country. You miss the familiar traditions and parties. Even the sounds and lights and advertisements in all the stores remind you that Christmas is coming. Where I serve, Christmas is not a holiday. it’s another work day like any other. The weather is warm and so the season doesn’t even remind you that Christmas is coming. I have to be reminded and turn to the light as you said. The place I serve is dark, full of idol worship and it’s easy to forget about this wonderful holiday. I have to intentionally look to Him and be reminded of why He came to live as a human being and died for us.

    • thanks janis for taking time to share where are you are at this year. merry christmas from across the miles. may God’s light shine through. peace.

  • Thanks so much Kathy! This morning I was thinking about the song “Sunshine on my shoulders” by John Denver. Then I lost my cell phone on the way to work….felt like I lost an arm….what a weird feeling but a good wake up call to stop and see what a beautiful day it was. I took a walk at lunch and kept looking up to take in God’s beautiful sun ……son : ) God bless you Kathy..…thank you!!

  • This was simply beautiful.

    I’ve been between tears and rage for the past week. The shooting here last tuesday at the mall my friend was working at, the one in connecticut at a school just like the one my own babies attend…., what is happening?! And all the usual difficult things our community deals with… The feelings are so raw and overwhelming right now. a fog is a good descriptor.

    I’m going on a walk tonight after I put the kids to bed, and clouds permitting, will look to the light of the moon while I walk. Thank you and hugs from here.

    • raw and overwhelming are the right words. i hope your walk was good…love and peace from here, i am so sad to miss you at convergence this year but hope somehow to get up there in 2013. xoxo

  • Kathy, I needed this. This week has been tough – scrolling through my facebook feed and suddenly there is a current picture of the first man who molested me – haven’t seen him for 45 years. Then, at work and things were slow so I am just surfing the web and suddenly there is a picture of my aunt that died 3 years ago, And right there at work I just started crying. First time I’ve cried for her.
    And realizing that it has been almost 4 weeks since I have been touched (hugged, pat on the arm, etc.) and that seems like a big deal right now. Hmm…..and all the usual suspects show up in my head with “it’s your own fault you’re alone” then “toughen up and just deal with it – it’s not that big a deal”. Sigh.

    So, looking to the light is something I need to be reminded of . Thank you.

    • thanks my friend, oh i say this every time but i really do wish you lived here. hugs are so healing. grief is the freakiest thing, so unpredictable, when the waves will come or when memories will return that remind us of such pain. i hate the barrage of those messages that try to tell us lies. it is a big deal. praying for light. love and hope from across the miles.

  • This is one of my all-time favorite posts… which is saying a lot since I am aware of all of them. Christmas is really hard season for me, and this serves as an important reminder to focus on the light as best as I can. It feels to me a little like driving in pitch black in an area full of potholes. It is so dark, and then all if a sudden an almost blinding light comes from the distance. Aaand then it is gone. But it can pretty much be counted on that if you are on the road long enough, light will come again. Holding on for those moments, and crying out in the in between.

    • almost there, my dear, almost there. i love this line “but it can pretty much be counted on that if you are on the road long enough, light will come again.” yes. xo


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