An Advent Devotional
On our trip to Finland last summer, we were greeted by days filled with eighteen hours of sunshine. Now this sounds nice, but our biological clocks actually crave darkness. Like chickens that know it’s time to roost because the sun goes down, our bodies are designed with certain ebb and flow that’s connected to light and darkness.
I went to Finland prepared with a blindfold to place over my eyes so that when it was time to rest my body, my brain would believe that night had truly come.
We don’t often see the benefits of darkness. That is true spiritually as well as physically. It is our tendency to think that God is only present in the light. Why is this?
Well, darkness has gotten most of the bad press. The underworld has often been imagined as a place of darkness. The evil cowboy always wears the black hat. Villains are often dressed in black in the movies. When we grieve we wear black. We speak of the Dark Ages as opposed to the Age of Enlightenment. The ghosts, goblins, and spooks come out in the dark. Witches always wear black. The list goes on and on.
This is aided by biblical authors who use light as a metaphor for God and darkness for that which leads us away from God.
While we can affirm 1 John 1:5 which says that “God is light and in him there is no darkness,” that does not mean that God cannot be found in the dark times of life.
The Psalmist wrote:
Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute–
you’re already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you (Psalm 139:7-12 The Message).
While it is true that in the creation story, it is only light that is called “good,” God did not choose to eradicate darkness. He could have made two suns so that as the world rotated there would never be darkness anywhere. But God chose to allow darkness to remain, supposedly because He saw its benefits.
Darkness is as much a part of life as the light. God knows the way through darkness. God knows where we can find the light that will eventually lead us to a new day.
God didn’t create light so He could see. God created light for the benefit of the earth. Perhaps it could be better said that God shared his light with the earth because as 1 John 5 says, “God is light.” The light that came on day one must have radiated from God himself, because the sun was not created until day four.
Notice the ending of Genesis 1:3: “There was evening and there was morning, the first day.” “The first day”–these are words of hope because they announce there are more days to come.
These words also teach that evening and morning are gifts to us by God. If evening and morning are both gifts, then we should experience God in both places. That means if we ignore the darkness in our lives, we may miss what God wants us to learn.
I am not suggesting that God sends dark times in our lives, if we use darkness as a metaphor for all that’s wrong with our world. Darkness will come, welcomed or not.
However, it is part of what it means to be human, to experience both light and dark, so we must learn “to live by sunlight and moonlight, with anxiety and delight, admitting limits and transcending them, falling down and rising up.” (Learning to Walk in the Dark, Barbara Brown Taylor, p. 54-55).
We must learn that to be human is to stumble and struggle with our imperfections and poor choices, even as we celebrate our gifts and fulfill our purpose in life under the Lordship of Christ.
It was their fascination with a star that eventually led the wise men, astrologers from the East, to find baby Jesus. They followed a star all the way to Bethlehem, something they could not have done during the day, for only during the night would a star have been bright enough to lead them.
“If we turn away from darkness on principle, doing everything we can to avoid it because there is simply no telling what it contains, isn’t there a chance that what we are running from is God?” (Ibid, p. 56)
If we also turn away from God in the light, thinking we know the way because we can see, but ignoring God’s directions for living in the process, we invite darkness to come.
During this Advent season, look for God in the morning and the evening. You will recognize God as the light, but remember, there is much to learn from God whether you are walking in the dark or in the sunshine because God can be found wherever you go.