Eyes blinking, lights twinkling, wicks burning. In the background, instrumental Christmas music plays softly, lending to the air of nostalgia in the steamy room. I soak and sink deeper into the steaming tub, sink deeper into my decade hopping reverie as I revert back to the mind of a little girl. Of a little girl who was caught up in the magic of Christmas as she lay beneath the tree gazing up into the million tiny lights and glimmering ornaments, wedged between presents, and surrounded by the train set circling round and round, entrancing me all the more into my sugarplum visions.

In this candlelit room I am almost back there, almost back to that time when only the best was possible. Where the future seemed as bright as the neighborhood collection of lights and holiday display. Almost transported back to a season where magic and dreams were more of my reality than bills and debt and failure and sickness. Back to a time where I would never have dreamt the future would turn out any differently than what that Christmas hope eluded to.

I let my eyes flutter shut and sink deeper yet again, immersing myself in the rosemary scented bath I’ve drawn, letting the warm waters envelop all but what is necessary to keep breathing; to keep breathing in the intoxication of the dream, almost completely submerged in my reminiscion. It is in this half-waking, half-dreaming state that I imagine what that little girl would have thought if she was shown the events that would unfold and transpire those many years later. Would she have believed that life would have dealt her the cards that it has? That there would be so much hardship and loss and so few victory. That the passing years wouldn’t come and go with ease but rather with struggle and much effort to persist. That at 27 years of age she would still be navigating without steady bearings, still grappling in the dark for something yet unknown. Still wrestling with the giant of her own indecision and fear of failure, of making the “wrong” choice. That instead of being at the peak of her health and wellbeing, she was faced with fighting a disease that had already taken much of her life and always threatening to take so much more.

No, that little girl would never have imagined or dreamed that years from then she’d be single, careerless, and faced with Lyme disease, a battle she and the rest of the world scarcely know how to fight.

But that little girl also would never have dreamed that she would have graduated college a science major, held even a quarter of the countless jobs that have shaped and challenged her, supported herself merely on freelance writing those few short months, or traveled across the globe by herself with nothing more than a backpack and a lifelong goal. And yet, here I am, for better or for worse. And somewhere between the magic of Christmases past and the years that separated them, life has evolved into something richer and deeper than the layers of ornaments on my childhood tree. These memories, both sweet and precious, serve to remind me that the magic didn’t lie in the reality of what might come, but in the hope of what could be created.

And why should that be any different today? Why not, in this bathtub drawn to soothe my chronic pain, in this setting to slow the busy day, can I not also be wooed back into the hopeful visions of a brighter future? Why can I not gaze up into the moving shadows of the ceiling, those dancing flames, and imagine the same future full of hope, the same future where anything is possible. Healing, health restored, husband met, heart mended, and happiness captured. These can still be my dreams, and the magic of Christmas can still whisk me up into the hope of a future beyond my wildest imagination.

Why? Why else but because of a virgin borne babe who came to be living proof that anything was possible. That sin could be taken away. That hope could be restored. That healing could commence. That intimacy could be had once again.

And maybe He’s the one who has been wooing me in all along. Maybe these have never been my dreams, but His. Ones that tell of a place beyond the temporal, where hope truly does soar. Where life has no end, and dreams no limit.

This is the place where I wish to find myself this Christmas. Caught up in His splendor, in that humble Babe’s magnificence, and hidden from reality’s harshness. Overwhelmed by His beauty and engulfed in the luminescence of the promises He brought.

I can either allow myself to get caught in the tangled mess of my reality or let the wonder of His love lead me to a place where I am dazzled by nothing less than His brilliance and the shimmer of the life He flashes before me when I allow my gaze to shift fully onto Him. When He is the only one who catches my eye. When the lights that captive me all emanate from Him, the true Source of all light in this world. The only light that should guide us through each season of this life: Jesus. Jesus the babe. Jesus the man. Jesus the teacher. Jesus the Savior. Jesus the Christ. My Messiah. My desire. My only hope.

So as my alarm rings and my classical Pandora station cuts out, I am woken back to the burning reality; to the pain that doesn’t relent, the fatigue that cannot be quenched, the fog that just won’t lift. And even as I am abruptly awoken, I remember that the captivating splendor that once existed in this season is still present. I realize that it never left, my eyes merely dimmed to its radiance. I see that the grand Author is still writing this story. That He has been with me through the periods of darkness that blotted out my dazzling hopes. That He’s been beside me all along, inviting me into His presence and challenging me to believe in dreams far beyond the confines of this reality. Of my reality. Of the current state of affairs.

Immanuel. The Light Bearer. The One who reminds me that the expectant little girl is still very much alive. That the lustre that the little girl once marveled at still shines with the same luminous prospect. That hope can still be had in this season, and in every one hereafter, because the Author of hope still lives. He was born that star-filled night into lowliness, grown unto meekness, died in subservience, and raised victorious. His triumphal entry yet to come will one day prove His supremacy over all and put the final crown in its rightful place, above all of humanity. He is seated there now. And best of all, He promises that but in a twinkling of an eye we will be there with Him.

Music fades, alarms cease, wax melts, wicks singe. Smoke rises, dances, wisps, fades. The charred odor lingers, and pools of water trail the bathroom floor. Robe wrapped, fastened, with languid body making its way toward the door, I look over my shoulder and smile. I will not forget the words spoken to my soul. I will not look away from His brilliance. I will never lose sight of the wonder restored. This wonder not only at Christmas, but every day of the year.

Hebrews 1:3

“Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;”

King James Version (KJV)

He is the light of the world.