Hanukkah has ended. Christmas is nearly upon us. It is the time of year when we notice, despite our electrified universe, that much of the world is living in greater darkness.It is tempting to despair in the darkness and the cold of wintertime, to fear the black night. So we strike a match. We hold it to the wick and watch candles come alive with tiny, dancing flames. We tell ourselves stories of bravery against all odds. We acknowledge that a sacred place was desecrated and yet reborn to holy use. We remember courage in the face of danger. We acknowledge that each and every time a child comes into this world we see that life itself – every life – is born innocent. In darkness, we celebrate festivals of light and love. We need those stories.We need them far more than the things we have attached to them. Those things sap our energy rather than renewing it. They absorb our attention and exhaust our patience.Parties and gifts and decorations have become our substitutes for the reflection this season calls for, for the storytelling that heals.Instead we fill up time searching for the right clothing, the perfect present, the snazziest yard decoration. We go out, we mingle with others, we eat and we drink in company. We create much in the way of artificial light.Perhaps we are trying to ward off the dangers of the dark, when loneliness beckons, when the sun’s absence can easily evoke sadness and loss.Every year I try to spend at least some nights of Hanukkah sitting in the light of the candles on my chanukkiah, my Hanukkah menorah. The word “Hanukkah” means “dedication,” “reconsecration.” But inside the first two letters of the word is another word, and it means “grace.”There is grace in the light before me. I watch those fragile flames burn for just twenty or thirty minutes. They remind me that my life, too, is a tender thing. There is no long song in our lives – we aren’t on this planet long enough to compose one.But there is beauty in our melodies, however long we are here. Appreciating the gift of our lives is the same as asking for grace to descend upon us.My friends look at the lights on their Christmas trees and Advent candles and, I suspect, there is similar wonder and gratitude.We should sit together in the darkness, illumined by fragile and tender light of our holidays. We should inhabit the core of their message: Darkness is only an opportunity, an invitation to search for the light.May we find it in abundance this holiday season, no matter which tradition we represent or practice we assume.Light is grace itself, and darkness is only its mantle.