Advent: The world is getting darker
As we move into Advent, the time of waiting, we can’t avoid going into the dark. In this country, we are experiencing ever shorter days and lower light as we move towards the winter solstice at the end of December. Often during the daytime, the weather is dark and dismal too.
Of course we can snuggle up indoors, switch on the lights and plan our Christmas decorations that sparkle and challenge the increasing darkness outside. Lovely effects can be achieved with candles, once the only way to light our homes, now used just for interior decor or meditation.
Generations ago, people depended much more on daylight. The working day got shorter in winter, just as they needed to earn more to provide warm food and fuel for their families. It is still true, with ever-rising heating costs, that poverty hurts both adults and children more in the darkness and cold of winter.
Experiencing the darkness
Tonight will be very dark indeed, with no moonlight for finding one’s way. So the traditional Advent battle between the forces of darkness and the coming of the light finds an echo in the world around us. One way to pray at this time is to allow ourselves to experience the darkness, to recognise how much we need and long for the light.
It is interesting to try the experiment of spending a whole evening without putting on electric lights or screens at all, even eating a meal just by the light of a few candles (or firelight if you have it).
Just let the darkness fall and see what it is like to talk to one another in a room where there are many shadows, no external voices or entertainment, only your own feelings and thoughts about those who cannot escape the dark as we can.
Praying in the dark
But if this feels too much, try spending at least some time in a room that is almost entirely dark, and bring yourself into the presence of God who is there with us in both the darkness and the light.
After a time, light a candle and let yourself feel the blessing of the flame, which overcomes the dark and throws deep, defining shadows, bringing light and dark into sharp relief with one another.
Considering Psalm 139.12, 'Darkness and light to you are both alike'
God of daylight and starlight,
who created the changing days and seasons,
help us to stay with you in the darkness.
May our hearts reach out to those who suffer in the dark:
children who are cold, or lonely, or afraid.
As we long for your coming,
may we also long for the blessing of hope for them,
warmed in the light and comfort of Christ.