On Thursday, December 12th, our little town will celebrate a “Quiet Night in Woodstock.” Everyone is invited to light candles or luminaries and place them at the end of driveways and on stone walls. As we drive on our very dark backroads, it is heartening to see these small beacons of light glowing on the roadside.
The practice originated as a memorial to Judy Nilan, a social worker in our town’s middle school who was abducted and killed 14 years ago while jogging one afternoon after school. The luminaries commemorated that final route that she ran; the lights honored her spirit of compassion and giving.
The tradition has evolved and grown over the years. The Judy Nilan Foundation invites people to “share the peace of a quiet night during a busy time. Each year, the Quiet Night luminaries continue to spread across more of the town, inspiring many to take a break from the busy-ness of our lives.” This lovely ritual honors the spirit of someone who was so good at sharing joy and whose memory now encourages all of us to take some moments to reflect on what is important in our lives.
This coming Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, is the Sunday of Joy. Judy Nilan was someone who offered great joy to students and adults through her understanding, caring, and attentive listening. Both the luminaries on Quiet Night and the three candles on the Advent wreath invite us to think about those who have brought joy into our lives.
Our lives are often so busy that we rush by special moments and barely acknowledge cherished friends or family. This week, take some moments and consider – who makes you laugh? Who makes you smile when you think of them? Who understands you when no one else does? What glimpse of beauty warms your heart? Take time to remember a moment when joy broke into your life. Give yourself the gift of re-living that occasion. Then give thanks for it.
Joy can be a rare commodity in a world that is often harsh and unfeeling. Joy is something to be cherished. Joy is something to share. These tiny points of light encourage us to notice glimmers of joy in our lives – and then to pass it on.