Giving Thanks for Darkness
(Rev. Dr. Allison Tanner is Pastor for Public Witness at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, Oakland, CA)
“In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;…
11 they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like clothing;
12 like a cloak you will roll them up,
and like clothing they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will never end.”
Over the years I have come to love the winter solstice – that darkest of days of the year – and the signal that from this day forward, the days ahead will only grow brighter. It’s a reminder of the gift of darkness, as well as the promise of light. It’s a reminder of the dance of seasons: light shrinking, light growing, and light’s mate, darkness, growing and shrinking in rhythm. It’s a reminder both of the permanence of nature and its ever-changing impermanence.
Darkness often gets a bad rap: dark days, dark times, and “the dark night of the soul.” Darkness can function as a metaphor for difficulty, depression, and spiritual depravity. In a world filled with the dehumanizing effects of colorism, and a country built on racist foundations, there are very real limitations of these metaphors. So many wonderful things happen in darkness, and too much light also has its difficulties, as my need for sunglasses, sunscreen, and stain remover often remind me.
The winter solstice lets me celebrate all the gifts of darkness: in the darkness of the earth, seeds germinate and grow, the darkness of the night sky reveals the beauty of the galaxy, and in the stillness of the early morning, I find it much easier to think clearly. Every fall, as the days grow shorter and the nights longer, I find comfort in nature’s invitation to slow down, enjoy a cozy evening, and let myself rest a bit more.
There is great wisdom in the rhythms of nature: grounding wisdom, deep connection with creation, and a reminder that the world we live in is the “work of God’s hands.” We do well to listen to the land that gives us life, as a reminder that the Giver of Life didn’t just create humans, but all of creation, of which we are an integral part. The rhythms of nature, its seasons and cycles, point us toward the eternal, the predictable patterns that we return to again and again. It’s not that nature is infallible – we did recently experience a full day of darkness thanks to the wildfires – but even anomalies point to the vast dependability of our reality. And nature, in pointing us toward the eternal, gives us a glimpse of the infallibility of God, in whom we ultimately depend.
It was into this world of darkness and light, of predictability and change, that Jesus came, bringing hope and healing for the difficulties and depravities that surround us. It is no accident that we celebrate the coming of God in the darkness of winter. In this season of slowing down, of finding time to rest and think, we are able to contemplate the coming of the Eternal One into our midst. I hope you can enjoy the gift of darkness today, even as we prepare for the Christ-child who comes bringing love and life and light.
LABC Zoom Gatherings
No Soup, But Study – 6:00 p.m. Tuesday
Wednesday Prayer and Bible Study – 10:30 a.m.
Christmas Eve Worship – 5:45 Prelude/6:00 Service (Please have a candle – traditional, battery operated, virtual – for the candle lighting)
A Time for Prayer – 10:00 a.m. Saturday
LABC Sunday Worship – 10:00 a.m. Sunday