O Light Divine

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in the night, but will have the light of life.” -John 8:12

Among all of the idiosyncrasies in this wonderful, mysterious, fascinating, at times frustrating, but always at its core enjoyable journey we know as life, I can’t imagine that the manner in which fairly vast episodes of time pass so rapidly could ever cease to amaze me. It seems as if just a few short months have transpired since this time last year, when the Christmas season was drawing to a close yet again, and the promise and expectation of a new year rife with possibilities was on the horizon.

Yet however the time elapsed may appear at first glance to be brief, it has come again. The end of the “holiday season” is once again imminent, and before too long, the decorations will go back into storage, the sales will come to an end until the next major holiday or occasion deemed worthy as one by corporate America arrives, post offices and retail outlets will return from being a microcosm and parody of a war zone to their usual pace, family and friends visiting one another will say their farewells until the next joyous occasion when they gather, those who have experienced a reprieve from the daily grind will return to their cubicles (either literal or metaphorical), and unfortunately, for far too many, the warm and generous holiday spirit so many display for the few short weeks following the final Thursday in November and the first of January will become less prevalent among many and dormant for another year in others. I wholeheartedly wish that the latter was never the case, but it does seem to ring true, at least in my experience in years past.

As I write this on the day following Christmas (the day on which everyone has elected to celebrate the birth of Christ, although it cannot be known for certain the exact date of His actual birth into this world), this year, I feel more a sense of sorrow as the time when the holiday is actually observed passes on for another year. It isn’t because of the time of the season itself and all of the festivities which normally accompany it, nor is it because I feel the time for celebrating the birth of Christ is over; I celebrate and appreciate that on a daily basis. There was just something very special about this year, a feeling I want to carry with me at all times, not just the holidays.

Although in recent years, at least, for the last 15 or more that I can remember, I have loved the holidays, and especially Thanksgiving and Christmas. But I do have to admit that I have had times when I would welcome the day after January the first with open arms and a sense of relief that all of it was over for another year (the predominant majority of those times being the years I worked in retail). I am certain that I am not alone in that sentiment, as I have encountered others who feel the same.

Some arrive at the conclusion that the holidays are more of a burden or hassle than a pleasure due to the heavy responsibility so many seem prone to yoke themselves with in order to have the most impressive display of decorations, purchase the most extravagant assortment of gifts, create the most exquisite array of edible treats, host the most massive and decadent gatherings, or attempt to lodge as many family members in their dwelling as allowed by law, and attempting to be in as many different locations as the fabled St. Nick in an seemingly impossibly narrow window of time. While all of these are often worthwhile endeavors, passions, and labors of love by their architects, they carry with them the potential for a proverbial sleigh load full of stress, especially considering and heaped upon top of day to day responsibility!

Others may find themselves completely resistant of the idea of being in the company of family members, and be under the false impression that there is actually comfort to be found by continuing to live in a state of brokenness or estrangement from others (I once knew a girl who would purposefully disappear alone to Las Vegas for the entire final two weeks in December solely for this reason). Or, perhaps there is a desire for reconciliation with family members, but it is overcome by the apprehension of what that process could entail which prevents someone from desiring to make the attempt to make amends, put aside differences, and find common ground with those who we may initially fear we do not share any with.

Some might be equally frustrated by the way the media elects to embrace the holidays, which, in a few instances, I find to be as irresponsible as the method in which they embrace religion and spirituality in general by placing the brunt of the emphasis on anything “Christian” to signify only orthodox or conservative evangelicals, and in the case of the latter, the most extreme points of view. There is the hype and the commercialization on one side where the message is one of “consume and purchase” (which seems to grow even more prevalent each year and take precedence over the true Message of the holidays), and in recent years there was the development of this entire “war on Christmas” where many conservative Christians attempted to whip their base into a frenzy by insisting that there was a conspiracy to eliminate the celebration of the birth of Christ from Christmas.

While I can definitely agree that I think that more people should strive to “put the Christ back into Christmas” (and to me that means a focus on what He embodied, celebrating the symbolic time of His birth, and promoting peace and love to all not just once a year but for the entire year, while still respecting other religious observations and traditions simultaneously), I think we should instead be striving to “put the Christ back into Christianity” first and foremost, as His Teachings and Message seem to have been consumed by the voices that speak the loudest and therefore receive more air time, voices that are obsessed with talking points about abortion, same gender marriage, creationism, religious elitism, legalism, the presentation of opinion as truth and then an attempt to have a monopoly on truth in general, political candidates and the private sexual lives of consenting adults rather than the points Jesus emphasized regarding showing our Love to God through our Love, respect and caring for one another.

And there are others for whom the holiday season can seem to be a time of cold and darkness rather than warmth or joy when they find themselves surrounded by others who are celebrating during a time when they find themselves in the midst of a portion of their lives where they truly do not feel any cause for celebration about much of anything. I too know what this experience can be like from first hand experience, from a time when I was suffering the illusion that I too was completely alone, that any organization involving Christ would not want anything to do with me, and the fear that I would always walk alone in darkness while others seemed to bask in comfort and joy. But more on that later.

For whatever the reason, there are many who might experience the same period of time in December with as great of a sense of stress, depression, or anxiety as many of us experience warmth, joy and peace. This most recent year had initially seemed as if it would be a challenging time of stress for me, but I experienced, for lack of a better term, one of those moments of epiphany that really put things into perspective and truly restored all of what Christmas symbolically and spiritually means and represents to me. It all happens to center around Light, and is related to a spark long ago which ignited faith in the dark and cold heart I carried within me at the time, one that I swore could never believe in anything again.

2010 in general has been another one of what I would define as a “crunch year,” one mostly spent working. Due to budget cuts where I work, I was unable to take any vacation time, and what I did take was predominantly spent doing work on the side to chip away at the debts to creditors, the tax man, and medical bills. While I cannot call it a bad year by any means (as I prefer to constantly strive to focus and place emphasis on the positive rather than the negative), it was one which was mostly spent taking care of responsibility with moments of leisure few and far between.

My holiday season this past year has been one which began on a serious and somber note, with news of family illnesses beginning the start of November, and conditions progressively growing less than favorable as the time went on. This was then compounded by the announcement that the customary week off between Christmas Eve and January first usually given by my employer was being cancelled this year, and that a moratorium was being placed on vacations due to a new corporate owner. The star on the top of the proverbial tree was that the expected pay increases in light of a new owner were not only delayed, they were delayed indefinitely. From what I could ascertain of what little information I was privy to, we were fortunate to still be employed, let alone to expect any sort of time off given the present economic state of the business and the superhuman deadlines being called for from a skeleton crew working at an even thinner wage.

This effectively and disappointingly circumvented the initial hopes I had for our trip back home to spend Christmas week with family, as with only four days off (two and a half which would have to be travel time) it would have been a very difficult undertaking. We would have had them here, but due to medical conditions and finances, travel was not possible for them this time. On top of this, the clients who I have had to keep on the side suddenly sprung several more unexpected, last minute deadlines on me as well and with no chance for additional payment as they were elements of projects which had already been paid in full. Would there even be time to celebrate in a traditional holiday manner this year, or would the anticipated festivities end up being cancelled, like in some bad made for television holiday special?

I was nonplussed, and determined to enjoy the holiday despite the efforts of any corporate Grinch or any associated stress that such a busy work schedule or unexpected deficit of funds could create. I assured my family that I would just drop any and all work in case of any emergencies, and strived to make another long distance Christmas as enjoyable as possible. A little online shopping and trips to wholesale and discount stores (though less extravagant than had been hoped for) was done, the post office was braved on lunch hours, office parties were attended and gifts were sent. A few minor and affordable holiday treats were purchased, and the Christmas CDs came out to play as a couple of classic Christmas movies were watched. And finally, the five foot pre-lit artificial tree was unfolded not too unlike an umbrella and set up in the living room. I think we ended up hanging about 15 ornaments on the tree total, and not even all of those survived the initial feline onslaught of the cat until he was successfully placated with a catnip stocking. But at least it had the lights, the colored lights that are one of my favorite and cherished part of the holiday decorating traditions.

And it has been well enjoyed; as wasteful as it may seem in this times to leave them plugged in all night some nights, we did anyway. I have said it many times and it bears repeating: I would rather have no tree at all than one without lights. If it doesn’t have lights of some kind, in my opinion, there is just a critical element missing. While I prefer the multicolored lights, even white ones are fine so long as there is at least some illumination. Sitting near the tree one evening for a few moments I pondered my affinity for lights, and I came to the conclusion that for as long as I can remember (even as far back as very young childhood in the days where Santa Claus seemed to be a reality, or at least a strong possibility to me) Christmas to me always has been synonymous with light. And I was about to realize just how profoundly true that internal statement and affirmation was on a far deeper and more meaningful and spiritual level.

About two weeks prior to Christmas, I arrived at a realization that perplexed and even disturbed me slightly: without being fully aware that it was occurring, I had managed to allow myself to slip into a minor affliction with the “holiday blues” for the first time in quite some time. I cannot pinpoint what the precise cause of this seasonal malady which has an effect on so many was for me, but I knew instantly in my heart that it was a drastic contrast to my usual feelings during this time of the year.

It was not the deep depressive (or even bitter to the point of being angry) state which I had experienced so many years ago, before I possessed any true sense of spirituality and the inner peace which can only be obtained from the awareness of God’s Unconditional Love and the teachings of Jesus regarding that God of Love, the ones unfettered by legalism and based in Love. But I was feeling down nonetheless, and I went within in an effort to determine the source of these feelings.

I wasn’t lonely. I am blessed to be surrounded by those who love me and friends, and I remain forever assured that with God, I am never truly alone regardless of whatever illusions stress or fear I might have allowed to temporarily obscure my awareness of that fact. I wasn’t disillusioned with the commercialization of Christmas, nor was I really too distressed that the shopping budget was incongruent with the desire to give, as Christmas is about expressing love, and not material items. And I had positively no doubt that no factor would prevent the real reason I celebrate the holiday, the birth of Christ, for that is something I strive to celebrate on a daily basis.

I finally came to the conclusion that there were a multitude of factors contributing to this uncommon feeling for me. Part of it could be attributed to the cold and dreary weather, I surmised, but ultimately, I knew what was bothering me the most was not being able to spend Christmas at my parents’ due to time and financial constraints. What placed even more emphasis on my sense of disappointment was the fact that both of them live across the country and cannot visit here, and both have recently been suffering from serious health issues in recent months. My hope more than anything had been to be able to be there with them in person to open gifts, spend time together, and share in the celebration with them, and this particular year that was not going to be a reality. This incited my mind to go to a place of concern about the amount of time in my life devoted to work and the stressful deadlines I was confronted with, and the profit margin of others as opposed to quality time with loved ones and family, and it was suddenly glaringly obvious to me what the source of my state of melancholia had been.

My response was what it always ends up being – sometimes later than it should – when I feel down. I merely prayed. Not a prayer of begging or supplication for some last minute miracle, but rather a prayer that somehow, and in some way, I would be able to enjoy the holidays as much as possible considering the circumstances. and feel the peace and joy I commonly always associate with this time of the year.

Just as I am consistently astounded by the velocity with which long periods of time can pass us by, I am equally amazed by the wonderful and mysterious ways in which God will reach out to us and touch us on an individual level when we are feeling the yearning for a deeper connection with the Divine. In this particular instance, it came in the form of a Christmas song, one which I have loved for a very long time and which remains one of my perennial favorites if not my favorite of all: “O Holy Night.”

“O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our friend!

Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His Name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy Name!

Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!”

The carol, which was first composed in the 1800s has definitely seen its share of renditions, interpretations and performance styles. Although just about any version of it really makes me feel in the True Spirit of Christmas, there is one version which always moves me more than any, and that is the version Michael Crawford (the original “Phantom Of The Opera”) sang, first on David Foster’s Christmas CD and the accompanying television show in the early 1990s, and then on his “A Christmas Album” CD in 1999.

Shortly following the time when I had been praying for some sort of peace and reassurance to shake my soul free from the temporary holiday funk, I began to hear some version of “O Holy Night” in several places over the next two days: the first, of all places, was on the piped in holiday themed Muzak in the dentist office while having a tooth repaired, although this was a highly commercialized pop version. The second was a choral version overheard while standing in line at the grocery store purchasing cat food, and I heard yet another (I cannot say for sure who the performer was) overheard at the drugstore purchasing last minute gift wrap on sale and having a prescription filled. All of these instances brought a smile to my heart and soul.

But a night later, while taking a mental breather from the work I had brought home that evening and relaxing for a few moments by the Christmas tree – just listening to music, petting the cat and waiting for my girlfriend to return from an errand – the CD player landed on the version by Michael Crawford. By the final note, one might assume that I was a devastated wreck from the tears that were coursing down my face, but in reality, they were tears of pure joy which I could feel a smile that had begun in my heart shining through. For lack of a better term, the Light came on.

And it was not merely the beauty of the performance which had touched me and stirred me emotionally on so deep of a level, as impressive a rendition as I consider it to be. I’m not certain of precisely what it was that shattered through the sense of shadow my soul had been wading in. But as I listened, three very profound feelings struck me simultaneously.

At the core level, it was how the song makes me feel and what it represents to me spiritually and symbolically. I don’t pay any mind to terminology which in the past might have triggered my past legalistic understandings of what Christianity is or means, especially because none really exists in there, the way I read the lyrics. Instead, I visualize a cold and dark winter night, the night of the birth of Christ into this world (at least symbolically, as we have no idea of knowing for certain if He was born at night, let alone on December the 25th.) I imagine in my mind’s eye Christ as a child, surrounded by a pure and radiant white light, one shining God’s Unconditional Love into a world where souls hunger and thirst to know that Love as others stand in awe, knowing that God flows through Him and that peace has come. I consider the greatest Gift of all from God, that Jesus had come to illuminate our way, and make us beautifully aware of an entirely new way of thinking about God, one based in Love and compassion rather than steeped in dogma, legalism and religious ritual which would set us all free should we choose to accept it, and enable us to know God, have life more abundantly, and assume the opportunity to take part in making Heaven a reality on Earth and within each of us, rather than some imagined Utopia or location in the clouds which may or may not follow the life of our physical bodies.

And perhaps most of all, I consider the purity of His message of love. He came to make us fully aware of God’s Love for us and guide us in a better way, and I visualize the sacredness of all that His life in physical form would be and the pure intention in the beauty of His teachings. Here is a vision of Jesus, the Christ I know and love unfettered by the opinions and agendas of others who would attempt countless years later to manipulate His Message, which unfortunately thought the years has been stained by fear and human influence and prejudices. Here was Christ who was the physical embodiment of all of the Light of God’s Love, centuries prior to the time when parts of society would distort His name to invent divisions He never intended, or attempt to convert Him to some political figurehead in alignment with their interpretation of the Truth, and twisting the religion founded in His Name into a cult so dramatically in negative contrast to the Love He taught.

A second emotion and feeling that filled my soul in the moment was the symbolism of Jesus being a source of light in the darkness. As I had previously stated, Christmas to me isn’t Christmas without lights-and Christ is the pure embodiment of Light to me, the Light of God incarnate. The light to show us a better way of thinking, living and being based in Love rather than fear. The ray of hope to any and all who seek to know and fully experience God on a tangible and personal level, yet have allowed their fears based in the beliefs of others about God as judge and jury, God as vengeful, God as demanding and deeming us unworthy sinners rather than precious and beloved children for who God only desires peace, love and harmony. The candle to light the way through the darkness which accompanies the uncertainties in life, that which we may be fearful about, and the morass of legalism which has mired the teachings of Jesus to be neglected and hidden beneath talking points which He did not include in His Ministry.

More than just being the Source of Light, the Light of the World and the Light over all things, and the conduit of the Light of God to us, He encourages and empowers us to let God’s Light and Love to shine through all of us to all others. Not through observation of religious rote, rule and ritual, but by the pure and simple act of treating one another as we would want to be treated, and showing our love, appreciation and honor to our Creator through loving our neighbor as ourselves. And He teaches us that each and every single one of us in our uniqueness carries the Light of God within us, encouraging us to bring it forth and light a path through the night to others who seek it.

While both of these factors, and the deep metaphorical meaning that the celebration of the birth of Christ came washing through me like a wave, it is the third that suddenly made me recognize one of the reasons I felt so touched: the memory of my own Holy Night sixteen years ago, when God reached through the darkness of fear I lived in at that time and lit a Divine Light, a Divine Spark in me that began my own faith journey, and I caught a glimpse of the Light of God for the first time ever that would grow into the faith I know today and sustains me through all times and seasons, stressful or peaceful.

It was Christmas Eve, 1994 and I was suffering through what was the deepest Christmastime depression I had ever had. At the time, I was not open to anything regarding God or Christianity whatsoever, and the only God I knew at the time (aside from the false and negative concept of a God who I was supposed to fear and follow the strict rules and laws of or else suffer in Hell eternally) was one that resided in a bottle. In fact, one which I had been indulging in all night, that particular night, having staggered home alone from the bar I had just lingered to until closing time.

I was close to taking my own life at that point. I was a beyond stressed and repressed wreck who was completely unwilling to accept myself for who I was, feeling that the attempt would be an exercise in futility. I was perfectly content to settle for second best at everything and self medicate myself into believing that everything was copasetic. But this night, it wasn’t. I was alone, what few friends I had I could count on one hand and those were mostly drinking companions, and I was convinced that things could never improve. I didn’t feel like I could ever trust in or believe in much of anything. I poured another drink, and pulled out a notebook to pen what I intended to be my final written communication with the world, although at the time, I held whatever their thoughts of my departure would be with little to no regard. It was bad.

Something spoke to me at that moment. It was not a Christmas song, or anything profound that I heard or saw in particular, but it was a fleeting memory of someone I knew who had planted in my soul the seed of possibility that maybe, just maybe, God was not out to get me, and that I too was acceptable to God. Maybe I was already in Hell, I thought, and I could make one final request for a passageway out prior to throwing in the towel and checking out.

So instead of penning a suicide note, I opted to write a letter to God. (Still not being completely comfortable with anything to do with religion, I addressed God as “Higher Power”, a term that my AA friends used a great deal, as they attempted to encourage me to attend meetings). Although what my heart said as I wrote the words was, in fact God. A God of Love, a God beyond gender, or dogma, or any specific understanding of God, although I did consider myself to be inquiring to the God Who Jesus taught of.

And for one brief moment as I was writing, I entertained the slightest, smallest, mustard seed sized glimmer of hope that perhaps, just perhaps God really DID accept me as I was. Perhaps Jesus was really all about practicing things that already felt wonderful and natural to me, such as being kind and caring and doing good for others (although my swimming in alcohol had been preventing me from living up to that ideal for some time). Perhaps I didn’t have to change my sexuality or sexual orientation or pretend to conform to heterosexuality when I knew deep inside that I was born bisexual (albeit I was still very repressed at that stage in my life, and unsure of how to accept myself for who I was, let alone know that God did and made me the way I am). Perhaps there really was a God of Unconditional Love that desired for me to feel joy and at peace, so that I could share the gifts I was given with others (which at the time, I was merely wasting in a life of aimlessness, fear and bitterness.) I poured out as much honesty as I could on that page, and rather than call it a life, I called it a night, completely unaware of the wild and at times tumultuous spiritual journey which awaited me, and that my honest approach to God was about to set into motion.

It was a long and crazy journey which brought me from that Christmas past to now, filled with much anxiety and working out my own salvation with fear and trembling, and I could not even begin to elaborate all of the twists, turns and details here. But that was the catalyst for the sense of knowing God, and knowing God through the Loving teachings of Jesus, which carried me to where I find myself today. I remain forever grateful that I allowed myself to grab on to that spark, however faint it might have been at the time rather than the alternative.

And so it was that I recalled all of those things in a few short moments that I listened to a beloved Christmas carol a few weeks ago, and once again, felt awash in the light of God’s Love, and such a profound appreciation for the gift that Christ and His teachings were to all of us. Regardless of the exact time and date which He began His life on Earth, this was the time when we celebrate and honor the fact that He was born and illuminated the path so that each of us can know the Love of God, and feel Oneness with God, and attempt to share that joy and light with one another. I felt such a sense of brilliance fill my heart and soul, and any inkling of sorrow I felt over the holiday time I wanted as opposed to what was dissipated and disintegrated in that light.

I began to consider how grateful I am for all that it is which I already have, from the little things to the big things to the little things that are big things. I thought of that person who I was years ago and how the walls of fear have been shattered over time, and I can attest that without knowing God, absolutely none of it would have ever been possible. Reflecting back, I make the analogy that my journey of faith was one which began with that tiny spark of light, that glimpse and glimmer of hope, and grew brighter with each step I took-and was often carried as the “Footprints” poem so eloquently euphemises it-along the path.

It seemed all the world to me that each new person I would meet, each new discovery, would further light the way. I struggled through my own dark nights of the soul, letting the guiding light of God’s Love lead the way and maintaining my faith that it was still there, even when it seemed dim or I could not seem to view it in its full brilliance. I would ask, seek and knock, and be answered. Over time, I was able to cast out fear, doubt and darkness. When I would reach a dark corner, I would maintain my vision as best I could. When I took a turn down an unlit corridor, such as when I allowed fear to draw me back into legalistic forms of Christian though, I was able to find a Christian church where I was loved and accepted for who I was and was centered on the message of God’s Love for all and the teachings of Jesus.

I survived the arduous yet essential and worthwhile process of reconciling my spirituality and sexuality. I was able through learning, through being open to seeing new ideas and possibilities in a new light that not only is there nothing flawed or wrong with my sexuality, being a bisexual man, and having an honest and committed relationship with both a woman and a man that I love very much, but that my sexuality, sexual orientation and the need for the relationships I have are just a part of how God Created me and that in the blessing of the ability to be honest with myself and others that I am able to shine a light of hope into the darkness of fear others who struggled as I once did may be feeling.

I was empowered to share my faith with others rather than allow it to be “hidden under a bushel” where it could not shine hope into the life of another and encourage and inspire them to pursue a relationship with God, and learn to read and study the teachings of Jesus for themselves from a place of Love rather than fear, and take them to heart and put them into action, understanding that through striving to live them to the best of our ability, we are embracing the life of joy, peace and abundance God Desires for each and every one of us. I came to know that we should embrace rather than deny whatever gifts it is God has given each and every one of us to share, and that in doing so, we are being conduits for God’s Infinite Creativity, and vessels for what God expresses in this world, carriers of the Light.

In my experience, a very interesting phenomenon takes place, when we are struck with these moments of clarity and awareness from God which leave us with a deeper sense of how awash in the Light of God we truly are. It becomes a moment of inspiration when we are compelled to share that joy which we are infused with-that Light from within that can provide a spiritual recharge when our ability to shine seems to have become impaired and we may feel as if it is flickering with doubt or has grown dim under the strain of daily trials of whatever fashion we might be experiencing.

Following the moment of peace, Oneness and wholeness that I had experienced considering the gift of what it is we truly celebrate during this season, and the moments when I recalled how God has shone into my life so brightly and the good feelings which accompanied such, I discovered that not only did it blind me from allowing whatever sources of stress I had allowed to bring me down, it inspired me to seize every opportunity I could to bring some of the light I had felt to others in need of it more fervently than usual.

Even if it was something as seemingly trivial as wishing someone a good day, or Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays, or what have you as a genuine sentiment rather than some type of obligatory formality, I felt like doing it. I met circumstances which I might have seen as a recipe for frustration with a smile, and tried to make the best of them, and help others having a frustrating time feel a little lighter by letting a smile, a laugh, or just a positive attitude be as contagious as possible. And although I would pray for Love to surround all those who were in some way feeling down or in need, and I have found that while prayer is a wonderful source of peace, sometimes the most beneficial action we can take is doing whatever we are capable of to let God work through us to assist in being an active answer to those searching. That has proven to be a certain method in my experience for re-connecting to the Light if I have felt an illusion of distance from it.

On newsgroups, or message boards (on the rare occasions I have the time to post on them), I would proactively reach out and offer hope to others who seemed as if they were down. I encountered another fellow LGBT individual during one of these who was dealing with deep depression, which had been compounded by his attempt to seek comfort in a church where he had been rejected because he is gay, and where someone had the audacity to blame the distress in his life on their apalling assertion that “this is how God deals with sodomites.” I was compelled to reach out to this person, who I did not know, and had never met and recommend what hope I could offer as well as some local accepting churches as well as a message of hope. A few weeks later I was delighted to discover that their depression had lifted and they were able to view things in a clearer light.

And on Christmas Day, while it was another long distance Christmas this year with Mom and Dad, we had them on speaker phone all the way through every gift unwrapped, listening to carols and a prayer of Thanks for what we truly do celebrate each December 25th. And although the tree comes down New Year’s Eve, the Light I experienced within is one that I want to remain shining throughout the New Year.

Speaking of which: I find it extremely appropriate the timing, even though it may not have been the actual date of His birth-during those coldest, darkest and longest nights of the year, and how what it is He brought us was the Divine Light of God to lead our way through the dark times of our lives as well as the illumination of a new, and better way to live and encouraging us to find the Light within ourselves and allow God’s Light to come forth from within us and flow through us to others. However, at times that can appear to be a difficult task, especially if we have allowed fear, stress, anxiety or depression to obscure our awareness that just as the Light of God was in Christ, it still remains within all of us, as well, should we reach within and find it.

There is an interesting statement attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas which states, “If one is whole, one will be filled with light.” I read that a few days ago, and to me it seems to bring everything into perspective for me.

In order for us to be whole-truly whole-in my opinion, we must first embrace the reality of God’s Unconditional Love for each and every one of us. To do so, I feel that we need look no further than what Jesus taught to empower us: we can access that Light immediately and directly by taking the steps to become whole. We can do this be striving to embody the type of Love that God Has for each and every one of us, while simultaneously knowing, loving and accepting ourselves for who it is we were Created to be. We need not conform to the ideas or opinions of others about who they think we should be, nor should we feel any sense of guilt or shame about who we are, but rather strive to live the complete truth of who we are in a fashion which is loving and respectful of all others, and therefore congruent with the teachings of Christ.

I feel that we should never view ourselves as miserable and wretched sinners or indulge in feeling anything bad about who we are, but embrace who we are and feel good, for feeling good is feeling God. I also believe that we should be unafraid to live the life we have been given by taking the time to discover our passions in life and embracing them wholeheartedly, as it is so often in fulfilling our passions that we fulfill our purpose as well.

When we can truly come to hold and comprehend in our hearts and embrace the reality that Christ was born and came into this world to free us from being enslaved by the darkness of fear, to enable us to have life and have it abundantly, and to realize that the Light of God which He embodied is not only fully accessible to and within us all to shine through us to others, it can create a sense of not only wholeness with ourselves, but more importantly, a deep sense of Oneness with God and lead to a greater awareness of our deep connection to one another. Once we are able to discern, and discover the Light within ourselves-the one that Christ taught us how to embrace, the impulse to allow God’s Love to flow from the Source through us to others, we can then begin to live a truly illuminated life. It is then that we can serve as beacons and glimmers of hope for those who are wandering in the cold darkness that comes from not allowing oneself to be open to the Love of God, guiding lights to shine the way.

Wherever you may find yourself in your own faith journey at the dawn of this New Year, remember that even in times of darkness or if you experience times when the Divine Light within you may seem as if it has grown dim, it is always there and can never be extinguished. Through embracing the Glory of the gift what Jesus taught and striving to follow His teachings of expressing Love for God through love and compassion towards one another, it is always possible to recharge from the Source and let God flow through you to brighten not only the lives of others but your own as well in the process.

Wishing you a 2011 filled with joy, peace and all of the brilliance of the Glory of God!