By Lynda Young Kaffie
As we enter into the season of Advent and draw closer to the Winter Solstice, the hours of darkness gradually exceed those of light.
Often, for as many reasons as there are people in the world, we may associate a sense of apprehension with the coming of the dark. And yet, there exists a hidden wholeness in the balance between the paradox of these two gifts of Creation.
With the coming of the dark, can we not only welcome its gifts, can we even intentionally enter into that darkness to discover our own light and the light of God?
To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that dark, too, blooms and sings…
This year, 2020, in Austin, Texas, the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of light, will be on Monday, December 21 at 4:01 am, Central Standard Time. Thus, the Solstice is a specific point in time even as most people count the whole day as the Winter Solstice. That specific moment in time is when the Sun is exactly overhead of the Tropic of Capricorn and the northern pole of the Earth is tilted at an angle away from the Sun.
After a time of growing darkness, the Winter Solstice marks the “turning of the Sun” and days slowly begin to lengthen. In pre-Christian times, there were celebrations to mark the gradual return of the light. As I write, we are in preparation for the return of the light even as the days continue to grow shorter and the darkness grows longer. An opportunity exists for reflection on Darkness as well as on Light.
Often, we humans label Light as “good” and Dark as “bad” or “scary.” And yet, in Genesis, when describing Creation, including the light and the dark, it is written:
And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day
from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years,
…And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning…”
Genesis 1:14, 18b-19a
During Advent, we are waiting in anticipation of the birth of the Christ Child. We wait in growing darkness. Our time of waiting can be filled with anxious thoughts and fears of what might or might not come to pass. One of the quotations I treasure most often
echoes through my mind when my anxieties start to take hold
“All of the tomorrows I worried about yesterday that never arrived.”
Recalling these words helps me to pause, to laugh at my mind’s handsprings, and to return to the present moment in order to ask myself, “Is that happening right now?”
Granted, this year has been a year of waiting anxiously for outcomes and for information to make the unknown known and the frightening less so. An unprecedented virus, elusive vaccines, a polarizing election process, and the loss of freedom to simply be present with one
another have all left us without a once-familiar sense of solid ground beneath our feet. As a result, there has been a feeling of darkness, of grief and sadness, within our hearts.
This Advent season offers us the opportunity to welcome the gifts of the darkness in anticipation of the joy of the return of the light in the form of the birth of a baby who, as we do
know from our shared history, will one day be called Messiah. If we choose to open our hearts
to the darkening days and take time to be still and listen, we just might learn something from the dark – the dark outside of us as well as within.
As Barbara Brown Taylor concludes in her book, Learning to Walk in the Dark:
…I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light,
things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only
one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.
During this particular season of Advent, what might each of us discover that we can learn from the dark?