Advent conspiracy 19: the loss of light…

It goes without saying that here in the northern hemisphere, the advent season is inseperable from the deepening of winter, the shortening of days towards icy darkness. The longing for light. It is this juxtaposition that adds immersurably to the poigniancy of how we approach it, so much so that I find it difficult to imagine what a southern hemisphere advent, with just the opposite trajectory, might look and feel like.

Here there is also a feeling that we are treading pre-Christian paths too, in that the traditions that come to us only in fragments suggest that our ancestors also felt the spiritual significance of this season, so much so that they celebrated their own rebirth in the great festival of Yule, the winter solstace. Of course, any of these fragments live on in our Christmas traditions – the date itself, the mistletoe, the father christmas, the tree, the candlelight…

Rather than disturbing our Christian world view, I think it is more helpful to attempt towards a gratefulness because we stand in a long line of people trying to hold and help each other through the darkness.

I don’t need to tell many of you about how hard the season of darkness can be, or why these depths of winter, approaching the enforced jollility of Christmas, can sometimes be the lonliest place.

Perhaps it was not like that in the more connected, agricultural communities that were previously celebrated the winter solstace, but then again, there are always outliers in any human grouping. Those cast low or cast out.

Despite the stark beauty, winter can be cruel.

In to this dark place, the Jesus that comes through the old stories, and through the lives of those trying to hold and help, is not one who makes the winter go away. That searing passage from the beginning of John’s gospel about the darkness not being able to put out the light never pretended that darkness would not continue to exist.

Light exists in the midst of darkness, just like solstice comes at the depth of winter.

I would like to share with you a poem, which means a lot to me. It was my attempt to banish my own winter blues and to look for light.

Light of the world


The low winter sun takes power from

Puddles of last night’s rain and I turn away

Resonating to signals sent from distant stars


Something glints in the tops of bare branches –

A flash of wing or a white tooth or the

Coming together of choirs of angels


And in a wet manger of clogged earth, summer

Sleeps, waiting for light to burst out

Brand-new hallelujahs


For behold, the light is with us. The light is

In us. The light shines in the darkest places –

It even shines in me

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