By Gina Gaudet
Here it comes. The days of darkness are upon us once again. For many – young children especially – darkness can be a source of fear.
It represents the unknown, and when you are young or inexperienced at life, the unknown can seem huge and daunting. Even for adults, unknown outcomes can be unsettling and stressful. Darkness can be the metaphor for this – we are often “in the dark” when unclear about a situation or issue. In many spiritual traditions, darkness has multiple metaphoric significances, such as the opposite of enlightenment, the womb of all possibilities, and the darkness before the dawn.
Conversely, in our modern age, a unique challenge we face is “light pollution.” It is hard to appreciate astral events such as meteor showers when one has to drive miles from home (these events peak between midnight and dawn, of course) just to see them. For city dwellers, lack of nighttime darkness affects our internal circadian rhythms, which can have psychological and emotional impacts on daily life. Darkness is important to our life cycles on physical, psychological and spiritual levels.
At Trinity Lutheran Church in Point Roberts, and in churches around the world, Christmas begins with an evening service, often timed to begin or end at midnight. This acknowledges the pregnant possibilities of the darkness.
Although there is no scriptural support for the tradition, it is commonly assumed that Jesus was born during the night. The shepherds received their notice from angels in the middle of the night. The Magi followed a star, visible only at night.
The night is full of mystery, magic and some kind of mayhem, the upending of regimes of injustice, the healing of hearts, the return of delinquent children to their loving Creator and their garden of pure beginnings.
The prophet Isaiah speaks it well: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who live in expanses of deep darkness – on them, light is shining!”