"Hello darkness my old friend"; December is the dark month of short days and long nights, writes senior minister Iain Macaulay.
Darkness has a bad reputation. Perhaps it's associated with primal fears about what might lurk in the shadows or calls to mind the real threats that prowl under the cover of night.
So, we punctuate December’s dark, with lights. Emblazoned on homes, twinkling on trees, glowing on table tops, each announcing that the deepest darkness is overcome by the tiniest light.
Practically, metaphorically, theologically, darkness speaks of the daily constants of sin and evil in this world.
The early church leaders who selected midwinter to celebrate the birth of Jesus understood the powerful symbolism of the darkest season of the year. No doubt they heard in their decision the truth of John’s gospel:
“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overwhelm it. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world”
And they understood it from personal experience.
Light has come, and continues to come, in Jesus, into my darkness, our bewilderment, her agony, his disappointment. That’s as true this year as any year, perhaps more so in a year when the darkness of loss and mourning has overshadowed so many of us.
We were reminded in our recent comfort service of Isaiah 60,
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth and deep darkness is over the peoples."
On first reading “deep darkness” appears to be a grimmer, gloomier version of “darkness”. However the Hebrew word rendered “deep darkness” is also used of the dark cloud of God’s presence. Isaiah seems to be calling our attention to the truth that even in the darkest of places his presence can be found.
So Happy Advent! May we all know a little hope in the dark, knowing that dark days are when the brightest light of all breaks forth.