The Christmas season can be wonderful, can’t it?

All the pretty lights and decorations, the parties and presents. But for some (maybe for you this year) Christmas is just an overwhelming boatload of unattainable, perfectly edited images. Festive mantles dressed in evergreens and holly. Christmas cards with lovely, hazy focused photos of beautiful families and adorable children. Holiday songs about “cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudel.”

But for you, Christmas can be hard.

Perhaps the imagery in this passage from Isaiah is more like it.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. Isaiah 9:2

For some, there may days when, judging by your feelings, you aren’t sure that light is coming. The cheerful holiday season doesn’t help—in fact, it seems to make things worse.

I don’t mean to get all Charlie Brown Christmas on you, but maybe he says what you feel. “I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy.”

Maybe this year brought an additional burden for those in a dark night of the soul. Perhaps a diagnosis of cancer, or the loss of a job. A prodigal child. A fractured family. A fractured soul.

The secular world (and sometimes the church) can put a burden of “fake it til you make it” on those going through tough times. Hope is precisely not that.

Hope is the expectation of what is not happening right now.

Hope is the expectation of what is to come. And that is what gives courage to take the next small step.

Isaiah paints the picture so clearly. It is a picture of people walking in darkness. But the beauty of that scripture is that they are walking. They’re not curled up in the darkness, they’re not giving up in darkness, they are walking and into that darkness a light is shining.

True hope looks just like that sometimes. Just getting up and putting one foot in front of the other. When things are good and the horizon looks even brighter, that is not what I see as surprisingly beautiful, remarkable hope.

Hope is best displayed in the darkness as an anchor of expectation for what is coming…the light of dawn. Hope isn’t always loud, bursting with energy and big dreams. Sometimes hope is a tiny glimmer, with just enough light to get you up morning by morning, believing just enough to take that next step. I am certain there is still plenty of God’s abounding love for us in those moments.

Like the woman who had only two mites to give, God notices great faith in small steps.

Obedience and discipline, even when you can’t muster up the feelings. Reading the scriptures even on the days when they seem like disconnected words on the page. Still showing up. Doing acts of kindness for a stranger. This, my friend, is true faith in action. You will, in this way and despite your feelings, be singing a beautiful song in the night.

So. Whether it is dark because of the world around us, or dark because of the particular trial we are facing, or whether it is dark because, well because it’s winter and the days are shorter—keep taking those small steps. Think what that one step of faith that you can take proclaims into the darkness…the light is coming!

And Jesus steps gently into that space.

Ok that’s my Charlie Brown blog for ya! You may just need to hear Linus say, “I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.”