Hope is a Choice

I have always loved Christmas lights.

There is something about them that consistently returns me to a state of child-like wonder, something that pushes me to the kind of innocent hope I usually don't even believe exists anymore.

It has always been this way. Even as a teenager, I remember army crawling deep under the branches of my family's tree and then rolling over on my back to look up. The lights would glitter like a golden spray of stars frozen mid-shower, their rays broken and reflected on the silver tinsel garlands woven up over the dark branches. No matter where my heart was on those December days, the lights were a constant calm, whispering, "Be still. All will be well."

This year, I'm a newly married 20-something in a new city just barely getting by with a dead-end job and a heart that lately seems to have dead-ended as well, and Christmas lights honestly seem like an extravagance I have no right to indulge. I had to rationally weigh the possibility of not decorating at all—after all, no one but me and my husband will see it anyway.

But maybe all of this just means I have more reason than ever to pull out the strands of Christmas lights we used at my wedding and re-use them, in defiance of the grown-up cynicism that threatens to choke the light from this gray December. When I was a child, others hung up the lights for me, and I simply soaked in their glow.

Maybe part of being "grown up" in this season is not retiring the lights, but rather choosing to hang them myself even if there's no one here to help or even to see.

I don't know the thought inside out yet, but I feel that hope is something we choose instead of something that happens to us. Hope is in defiance of, not rational reliance on, the shadows circumstance casts on us. Hope is truest when it is impossible. After all, the incarnation, this mystery that prompted this holiday, must have seemed the same—the strange idea that a newborn's cry heralded a collision of the dark night with the divine, that the frail infant hands held love enough to alter the course of human hearts forever.

So I'll hang the lights and I'll hope, in memory of the way things have been and anticipation of what is to come, in recognition that the miracle of God-with-us is just as true today as it was two thousand years ago—and that is reason enough to shed a little light.


Writer: Mary Nikkel

Mary is a fan of stories about grace—whether they show up in writing, music, or photography form. She's been listening to and telling those stories as a professional writer for over 10 years. Mary is the founder and editor of Rock on Purpose, where she talks about rock music centered around truth and redemptive justice.

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