For much of my life, I was raised in a culture that venerated moving from darkness into the Light during Advent, culminating in celebrating the Light on Christmas morning. It’s not terribly surprising. I do live in a country that has its shortest days of the year around this season. I wake up in the dark, I go to work in the dark, I go home in the dark. Finding moments out of doors in the daylight is precious gold.
Add to that the entire first chapter of John’s gospel of how the Light entered the world and there’s a recipe for Light hyper-focus.
The older I get, however, the more I’ve come to understand the need for darkness. Seeds germinate in the dark, babies grow and are formed in the darkness of the womb, and we all need stretches of darkness each twenty-four cycle in order to sleep properly. The darkness holds as much power, beauty, and truth as does the Light!
And yet, our Light worship came at the cost of demonizing the darkness. Instead of valuing the holiness of the darkness, we attached Satan to the world of the dark. Our dualistic notions of light versus dark must somehow be reflected our never-ending quest of good versus evil.
Darkness came to be associated with the demonic, with evil, and with powers of the world. Little wonder, then, that people with darker skin colours were then associated with that same evil, that same blight on the world. When in truth, the same kinds of evil so associated with darkness happen as much in the daylight.
We need the Light. Christ came as the Light. This is the truth as best we know it.
But Christ came into one form of darkness from another kind of darkness.
While Jesus entered the darkness of brokenness, pain, suffering, and oppression, I must remember that he came from that most sacred darkness of all — a woman’s womb — that secret place all humans emerge from that is warm, quiet, mysterious, and wondrous. Christ radiates presence in those secret places where seeds gather nutrients and push forth roots and sprouts; Christ breathes gently in the rising and falling of our chests as we slumber in our beds; Christ’s very self shines forth in the brown and black skin tones of every person of colour the world over — holy darkness, the Imago Dei set in dark relief.
This Christmas, may we not only understand the depth and wonder of the Light now come, but may we also understand the nuances and beauty that creates so many kinds of wondrous darkness in our world.
Happy Christmas, one and all, and may we be surprised by God in both our darkness and in our lightness.