I was born on the 21st of June; in the northern hemisphere it’s the summer solstice and the day of the year when we get the longest period of time between the sun rising and setting and the shortest hours of darkness. It’s also the date that signals that for the next six months the hours of daylight will get less and less each day. It’s not though until you get to the Autumn equinox on the 21st of September that you really start to notice the difference. On this date (and on the 21st of March) everyone in the world gets an equal number of hours of light and darkness! And from there on until the Winter solstice the hours of darkness are greater than those of daylight.
I’m not a big fan of the dark mornings and early nights I must say; maybe it’s because I was born into brightness. But there are two highlights that brighten up the darkness, quite literally – bonfire night and Christmas. I love bonfires, fireworks and Christmas lights. And I love the Winter Solstice because even though the hours of darkness are at their longest, from this day onwards every day gains extra minutes of daylight and the promise of spring is already in my mind.
Seeking and finding light in the darkness is so important. It’s about searching for and discovering a hope of brighter days to come. It’s about celebrating the truth that the dark cannot win. Introduce even the smallest candle flame and the darkness flees.
My husband and I have recently finished watching an excellent six part crime drama produced for the BBC called Vigil. It’s set in Scotland and on board a British nuclear submarine on deployment. As well as being a well crafted murder mystery story there are big questions raised (and not answered) about the need for and effectiveness of a nuclear deterrent. It’s also a stark reminder of the lack of trust between countries and the dangers humans pose to one another, a reminder that the world can be a very dark place.
If you pay even the slightest attention to ‘The News,’ the darkness really can close in around you as we are bombarded with stories of rape, murder, corruption, poverty, Covid-19, climate related disasters and more. If you’re like me then you probably find that to a certain extent you have to harden your heart, to avoid it taking you down emotionally and mentally. I read the news on my app to stay up to date but I mostly avoid allowing my emotions to engage.
I have to admit though, I’m not entirely comfortable with that approach to safeguarding myself. When we stop ourselves from engaging emotionally with the news then we effectively stop caring. And when we stop caring we’re unlikely to take action to bring about change, whether that be hands on action or by calling out to God in prayer. We stop believing that change is possible, that we can play a part in that change and that God is the God who overcomes the impossible, who brings light into even the darkest places.
It may be the darkness that you are facing is far more personal. Many people are struggling with things far closer to home; poor physical health, financial difficulties, aging parents, mental health struggles, the death of a loved one, bullying at work, shear volume of work, relationship breakdown. And we can become adept at hiding our pain and fear, sometimes even to those closest to us, making that darkness even more overwhelming.
In the midst of this dark reality I am so incredibly grateful that I am blessed with a spiritual faith through which light shines brightly. The theme of light, symbolising hope, truth, grace and redemption runs through the whole of The Bible; from the very first day of creation when God said, ‘Let there be light,’ to the very last two chapters of the last book where we read about the the things of darkness being banished forever and God being our direct source of light.
One well known passage about light in The Bible, traditionally heard at Christmas time, is from the book of Isaiah – a prophet speaking about Jesus many many years before he was born.
“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” Isaiah 9:2 (New Living Translation)
What becomes clear throughout this Biblical epic of light overcoming the darkness is that the light which we so hungrily seek for is Jesus. I’m not generally big on starting Christmas too soon but for some reason this year my heart and soul are already longing for this season of lights in the darkness. I love the decorations, the present giving, the music, christmas pudding, brussel sprouts and I love driving the kids round town spotting all the Christmas lights. But I also love the message of light in the darkness that the Christmas story brings to us.
John talking about Jesus in his book of The Bible, calls him ‘The Word’ and says this:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
John 1:1-5 NIV
The truth that a miracle baby born to an unwed mother, laid down to sleep in a cattle trough because he was temporarily homeless and soon to be fleeing for his life as a political refugee could grow up to shine a light so bright that the darkness can never overcome it is a truth that brings hope to my soul. It’s a truth that allows me to face up to the darkness and give God the space to let his awesome light to shine out through me too.
So please forgive me for writing about Christmas already but with so much darkness about right now I’m going to keep seeking The Light and this part of Jesus’s story is where my thoughts are heading at the moment. With nine weeks to go to ‘the big day’ I’m sure this won’t be the last of my festive thoughts. 🎄🎄🎄