Welcome to the first TALK of 2017. I hope you have had a blessed Christmas and New Year. As I started to prepare this message, I reflected on the events of the last two months. December is always a busy time for a minister. In 2016, it culminated in two successful Christmas services. The Christmas Eve service of carols and candlelight was particularly memorable. We turn off the lights in the church around sundown and then gradually light candles as we sing Silent Night. The mixture of dark and light is rich and refreshing. I enjoyed a week off after Christmas, during which I visited my brother in Canberra.
I came back to find that the builder was ready to rebuild the pergola at the manse. You may recall that in October a falling tree branch crushed the pergola and pushed a wall out of alignment. Now a new pergola stands in its place. It looks identical to the old save for the cobwebs. But the spiders have assured me they will take care of that in time. I have also implemented a new year’s resolution – to walk the dogs first thing in the morning. So far so good, but the sun rises early these days and the morning weather is pleasant. I wonder how the resolution will hold up when challenged by the darker mornings of winter.
Candles and mornings: darkness and light. I have begun musing recently about dark and light, night and day. Is one better than the other? Certainly, darkness and night are associated with many negative clichés and attitudes. We need to be wary of these as they can too easily flow into value judgements on people with a darker skin colour. Just recently, I have come across a book by Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to walk in the dark, a personal memoir of how she tried to overcome her prejudice about dark and light.
Why the negative associations for darkness and night? In the Bible, in Genesis, darkness and a watery void were the primary elements of creation. God separates out the earth from the waters and light from darkness (Genesis 1:10, 18). It is all “good.” There is no negative value judgement on day or night, light or darkness, waters or earth. Why then have so many negatives come to be associated with darkness? I wonder if it is based on fear, since human eyes do not work well in the dark, and seeing is so important to our life. (What does that attitude imply about sight impaired people?)
We rush to a dichotomy between light, which is good, and dark, which is not. Yet this is a false division. Is there light that is “bad?” I am comfortable in the sunshine, but disturbed when I am in a place lit by floodlights. I wonder if the harsh actinic light that illuminates the perimeter fence of a prison, or no man’s land, is bad. Or the light generated by the explosion of an atomic bomb. Those of you who follow Doctor Who know that a Dalek, the epitome of evil, kills in a burst of bright light.
On the other hand, it is not hard to think of examples of “good” darkness. The darkness of our Christmas Eve service enriched our life. Dark provides a cocoon in which we can relax and meditate. The best sleep is that taken in darkness. While we prefer the daylight, because of our reliance on sight, the night is the home for nocturnal creatures, for wombats, possums and owls.
These are a few of the thoughts that I have had about dark and light. I would welcome your comments. Do you think of the dark as inherently bad? Or have you your own examples of occasions when the dark has nurtured you?
May the coming year be one in which you are inspired by the light and sustained by the dark. (Peter Trudinger)
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