Light Breaking Through the Dreariness

By Rev. Ruth D. Fitzgerald  •  January 26, 2023

Want to use these Abundant Aging blogs as a resource for individual reflection or small group discussion? Beginning with today’s blog, you will find questions at the conclusion of each post to consider life and aging through the lens of spirituality.

A year ago, I included a passage of scripture in the blog post for January:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)

This was no surprise to me as this passage, often read on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, is one of the most profound theological statements in scripture; it is also one of my favorite passages. So, it is also no surprise that as we begin another year in the days of long, dark nights I turn to this passage of reassurance.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. The darkness does not overcome the light.

Recently an acquaintance asked: “How does being a Christian change the way we experience the dark days of winter?” How DOES being a Christian change us?

The Dreariness Effect

Many years ago, my late husband made a pronouncement: Just as soon as our children were both in college, we (the parents) would commit to travel to a sunny place for a visit during the winter. He continued: “You are so affected by the dismal days of winter and you need some sunshine.” “Huh?” I thought. “Really?”

As time has gone on, I do acknowledge that these days of early January, the shortest stretches of daylight, do, indeed, tug at my good humor. This year, especially, Michigan has been very, very gray. I know this because one day last week my dusk-to-dawn light was on at 3:30 in the afternoon. It was definitely a dreary day.

Does being a Christian change the dreariness? Does being a Christian bring a sense of optimism or happiness? I’m not sure.

Finding Light in the Dismal Days of Winter

What I do know is that even on the dreariest days, I can easily recall one of my favorite hymns for the season of Epiphany. The weeks after the day of Epiphany and before Lent; those weeks hold the shortest spans of daylight, even as the minutes of daylight slowly increase.

The hymn I hear in my mind comes from The New Century Hymnal, the “new” hymnal published by The Pilgrim Press (in 1995!). “Hark the Herald Angels Sing (Jesus the Light of the World)” calls on us to sing out the assurance of Christianity. Even on the most difficult, the dreariest, the most emotion-laden, the least inspiring days—the light shines in the darkness. Beyond December, beyond the candles of Christmas, beyond the warmth of the twinkle lights in the neighborhood; Jesus, the light of the world endures.

And, beyond December, into January and all the months ahead we find the light in the last straggling holiday card that arrives this weekend. We find the light in the bright red cardinals eating at the feeder and caring for their mates. We find the light in friends who come along beside us on these long days and share memories and new experiences. We find the light of the world in unlikely spaces and with unlikely folks. When we look carefully and see the presence of God in each person whose face we see that light is with us. And, we may find it in the sunny beaches of the southern states or the deserts of the southwest.

The scriptures tell us that we may hope in the promises of God, that the light comes to us in the story we know so well, as a baby in a dark and far-away place and that the light endures even in the presence of dark days and trouble in the world and our own small challenges of life.

The light shines in the darkness—beyond December.


For Reflection (either individually or with a group)

Read the blog. Read it a second time, maybe reading it aloud or asking someone else to read it aloud so you can hear it with different intonation and emphases. Take these questions for a walk in the woods or in your neighborhood, for a swim or a run or for a hot soak in the tub. Invite the questions to join you for tea or coffee. 

  • For you, does being a Christian change the way you experience the dark days of winter?
  • As you grow older, has being a Christian changed your sense of optimism or where you find happiness?
  • If you don’t identify as Christian, have you observed Christians experiencing difficult times differently than others?

Download a pdf including the Reflection Questions to share and discuss with friends, family, or members of your faith community small group.


Blog: Copyright 2023, Rev. Ruth D. Fitzgerald, All Rights Reserved.                                                                                                              Photo 206360446 © Alexander Popov |

About the Author

Rev. Ruth D. Fitzgerald

Rev. Ruth D. Fitzgerald served in parish ministry for nine years before being called into conference ministry as Area Minister for the Grand West Association in Michigan. She retired in 2023 from that position. Ruth served on the community board for Pilgrim Manor, then a United Church Homes community, and has been an active board member for the Fountain Hill Center for Counseling and Care, and Ele's Place--West Michigan (a healing center for grieving children and teens) all in Grand Rapids. Ruth has two grown children and three precious grandchildren. Travel, hiking, knitting, and reading fill her “spare” time.

View all articles by Rev. Ruth D. Fitzgerald