In Praise of Lingering Lights

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM    January 30, 2022

While driving home this past week in the pitch dark of a late January night, I came upon a lone house with its Christmas lights still displayed and twinkling. I smiled, thinking, “There’s always one that has the lights up way past the holidays.” Somehow, I felt especially grateful for that single home that stood out because its radiance pierced the darkness all around me on a lonely stretch of country road.

I immediately thought of another occasion when outdoor Christmas decorations had overstayed the Christmas calendar but when their timing was perfectly placed.  

When I was new to community life, we were told that we’d be able to go see our families some time in January in one of the first ever family visits. Yes, we’d miss the Christmas holidays but we’d get to spend some winter days with our loved ones. So when the appointed date in late January arrived, my Dad drove to the motherhouse in our family station wagon and picked me up. We chatted all the way home until we neared our long, winding driveway. Then he became strangely silent. Looking around, I slowly understood why. Every other house in our neighborhood was dark and bare of decorations, but there, shining from the second floor deck of our home, hung a huge plywood star, brilliantly lit. I gasped and cried and hugged my Dad, who whispered, “Merry Christmas, and welcome home!”

Aaron Burden, Unsplash

Later on, my mother told me how proud my father was of that creation. At some point after Christmas, she said, a howling wind had knocked the star off its perch and onto the ground. But Dad insisted on putting it back on the house so that I could see it when I arrived home. My heart was moved at the image of him clambering up a rickety ladder to the second story in what was surely an act of craziness, but just as surely an act of love.

So this past week when I came upon the single house with its Christmas lights beaming, I was taken back to another light that ignored the calendar many years ago. I was remembering my thoughtful, tender, star-loving Dad, the creator of that oversized, welcome home, plywood star. I was remembering the thousands like him who have been lights to me, whose witness continues to illumine my way, especially in my most despairing and lonely hours. I was remembering the brave beacons who persist and endure, who show up even when the timing of another’s critical need for light announces itself at a moment that’s inconvenient and interruptive. I was remembering those who stay and shine.

Maria Brauer, Unsplash

Surely, we have all met them, those concentrated beams of light that punctuate our everyday living. They are the farolitos, the luminaria our bleak and darkened world waits and hopes and longs for. They are the wisdom figures who have stoked the flame within by entering into deep, inner soul work and cultivating radiant spaciousness of heart. They are the welcoming hearth at which we warm our chilled bodies and thaw our frozen spirits. They are the holy ones who know, with a primal, intuitive knowing, that for some things, there really are no wrong times. There really is no such thing as being out of season.


Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
You may want to set a candle or a light of some kind in front of you.
Gaze at this light for several minutes.
Recall and name persons who have shared their radiance with you.
Give thanks for that holy, light-filled litany.

Featured image:  Timothy Eberle, Unsplash


Please hold in your prayer all those who will be part of a Zoom retreat morning I’m leading for IHM Associates on February 12. Thank you.

IHM Associates are women and men from all states of life and various creeds who are seeking a deeper experience of God for their own transformation and for the transformation of the world. Attracted by the charism of the IHM Sisters, Associates join with the sisters in the living out of the IHM charism within the context of their everyday lives.

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6 thoughts on “In Praise of Lingering Lights”

  1. So beautifully written, Chris! I just loved it. And I remember that January visit to our families!

  2. Thank YOU for being a “concentrated beam of light· I was also especially touched by the image of your Dad fixing the star for you, and the lights. I am sure he was a “star for you.

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