Today we are pleased to welcome Ruth Ann Adams as our Guest Blogger.
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned” ~ Isaiah 9:2 NIV
One late afternoon, I returned home from work, and walked into the laundry room on the main floor of our apartment building. My husband, Andrew, was busy sorting our laundry. He said, “Our power has been turned off. I have found a way to pay off the bill, but we won’t have it restored until tomorrow.” I had been dreading this inevitable event for the past month. Now it was late November, a month before Christmas, and a night of darkness faced us in our tiny, seventh floor apartment.
My husband’s job loss had thrown us into a grim period of financial uncertainty and at times, the inability to pay our bills. My job as a substitute teacher was sporadic. It wasn’t enough to support ourselves and our three younger daughters. There were times when the darkness in my heart was as black as the darkness in our apartment.
Andrew and the girls went out for part of the evening. Almost defiantly, I dusted our bedroom and living room by candlelight. It was one thing to be without power because of a local or widespread power outage. It was another thing to have it turned off, because there was no money to pay the bill. This was not the way I wanted to live, nor the way I wanted my children to experience their lives.
Here we were, in the days leading up to the most joyful time of the year, a time which should have been filled with excitement and anticipation. Signs of Christmas were everywhere: in the stores, in brightly lit decorations, in festivities, concerts and tightly stuffed mailboxes. The pace would only quicken over the next few weeks.
I had always loved Christmas. As a child, I could hardly sleep on Christmas Eve. We gathered at my grandparents’ house on Christmas Day, with my aunt, uncle and cousins and enjoyed opening parcels which were full of surprises, feasting on an abundant Christmas dinner, and experiencing lots of laughter and fun. My grandmother would preside at the dinner table, look at her family with pride and love, and say, “Is everybody happy?” Of course, we were.
Later, when I became a mother myself, my husband and I combined and created traditions of our own. I did special Christmas crafts with the children and they helped cut out and decorate cookies. On Christmas Eve, I dressed them up in special outfits to attend our Christmas Eve service. One particular tradition was opening an early present the day before Christmas, accompanied by reading Margaret Laurence’s classic tale, The Olden Day Coat. Christmas Day was again full of excitement as the children opened their stockings, spent time with grandparents and played with all the new toys that were under the tree.
I still loved Christmas but now there was the dark specter of financial anxiety to contend with. With the help of kind friends and our church, we still managed to have gifts under the tree and good food for Christmas Day. However, the extra financial demands and the prospects of entering yet another year in our present circumstances was daunting.
After dusting the apartment, I sat for a while in our living room, lit by the shadowy light of the candles. As I reflected quietly, it occurred to me that our dark surroundings were much closer to the first Christmas than the festivities we would later enjoy. The stable was not likely bright nor spacious. The circumstances were poor and humble. Mary and Joseph were facing uncertainty and perhaps fear. The angels would come in all their bright and holy splendour, but, for now, there was birth and pain and darkness.
The next day we celebrated our youngest daughter’s birthday. Not long after her friends arrived, the power was restored. The apartment was once more bright and cheerful. We never lost our power again and our circumstances gradually improved, as God worked a gracious act of restoration. However, I will never forget that night of darkness, flickering candles and my glimpse into the long ago darkness of the stable night.
Ruth Ann Adams is a free lance writer, high school English teacher, mother of five, and pastor’s wife. Her most recent publication is a story called 'Charles Holloway: Many of Mystery' in Promises of Home, Stories of Canada’s British Home Children, by Rose MacCormick Brandon (Magnolia Press, 2014). Ruth Ann is addicted to cats and British history. She would love to interview King Henry VIII. Ruth Ann’s passion is to bring God’s love and encouragement to others. She lives with her husband and several of their daughters in Nova Scotia. Her website is “Five X Mama”.