Enjoying some natural light with my folks at Petit Jean State Park
in central Arkansas during our Thanksgiving travels.

When it’s dark, throw some lights on


Geek alert: When I’m not tweeting about local happenings or Mississippi Christian Living, these days I’m tweeting at the guys who host The Prancing Pony Podcast.


If The Prancing Pony sounds familiar, it’s the name of the tavern where Frodo and friends stop for the night after fleeing the Shire in “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (book and movie). In the podcast, hosts Alan and Shawn discuss and read passages from J.R.R. Tolkien’s long Middle Earth saga chapter by chapter.


Right now I’m on season 1, which isn’t about “Fellowship” or even “The Hobbit” but something way nerdier: “The Silmarillion.” Think of it as an in-depth pre-prequel.


Two “Silmarillion” villains, Melkor and Ungoliant, share something significant: a love/hate relationship with light. Tolkien says they both lust after light, yet hate and fear it. Melkor is a satanic figure, a “dark lord,” and Ungoliant is a being of unknown origin that takes shape as a giant spider. (If this sounds familiar, spoiler alert to the nerds: Melkor is Sauron’s master and Ungoliant is Shelob’s mother.)


So Melkor persuades Ungoliant to help him destroy a crucial light source for the earth. This will help Melkor wreak revenge on earth’s rulers, and Ungoliant will basically get to suck up the light like a giant smoothie.


Later, Melkor steals a few other light sources – again, out of envy and hatred for those who created them – and refuses to let them go, even though they burn in his hand. And when Ungoliant eats light, she regurgitates it as black webs and clouds of darkness, covering her and Melkor’s tracks.


Yuck. How twisted are these two? But there’s a point, I promise.


Yes, Melkor manages to steal some light away from others. But he can only do so much. Illuvatar, Tolkien’s all-powerful creator of the universe, tells Melkor early on: “You shall but prove mine instrument.” Basically, anything Melkor does will only feed into Illuvatar’s over-arching plan, which will end in redemption.


In the same way, Ungoliant creates darkness — but only once she has some light to work with. Evil cannot even exist, let alone do anything, on its own.


It’s funny how Melkor won’t let go of the light even when it burns him. It reminds me of something a friend once told me: “Seeing a believer, as a nonbeliever, is like watching a grease fire coming toward you, but you can’t look away.”


But mostly, Melkor and Ungoliant’s actions remind me of John 1:5 — “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”


Satan fears the light. He might lust after the light, in a destructive way. And if we let him, he can steal some of our light, or at least our ability to see it. But he cannot understand the light or overcome it, as other translations of the verse above state.


This is why I love Christmas: We attach lights to our houses and they twinkle in the darkness, and my soul remembers that nothing can defeat the Light of the World.


That’s also why I think it’s fitting we celebrate Christ’s birth in the wintertime, even though many believe He was born in September. At the darkest time of year, it’s essential that we put some lights on, both spiritually and physically.


I’m proud of the December edition of MCL because it’s full of light. Our cover story is about Jackson native Kristen Ley, who emerged from a period of intense darkness last year and continues to spread light and joy through Thimblepress (page 24). And our other big feature this month is about But God Ministries, started by former First Baptist Jackson pastor Stan Buckley, and the illuminating work they’re doing in the Mississippi Delta (page 32).


Don’t miss Christmas columns from Kari Thomas (page 12), Will Osgood (page 16) and Tonja Murphy (14). Also, check out a review of bestselling Mississippi author Terri Blackstock’s new book, “Catching Christmas” (page 44). Somebody tell Hallmark to make a movie!


I hope this season of physical darkness is one of spiritual light for you. Don’t neglect your light sources — whether they be LED bulbs, strings of lights around a tree, family and friends, or most importantly the Word of God — and take care of yourself.


Remember, our enemy and his minions might be able to suck up some light temporarily – but they cannot defeat the One who called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).