British summertime is over and the nights are drawing in quickly. The evening begins with sunset at before five o’clock. The days are getting shorter during November. The shortest day is on 21st December when the day length is just under eight hours. It is no wonder that I feel the winter blues at the end of November, December and beginning of January. It seems nothing is changing very much until mid-January. If the days are approximately eight hours, then the nights are 16 hours long!! I certainly do not get any more sleep for the extra night time, I just work longer in darkness.
It is often the length of darkness and shortness of light that makes us suffer winter blues. For some people, this becomes full depression (SAD seasonal affective disorder) and they have to top up the light with a lightbox each day. Darkness also brings with it the fear of the unseen and unknown. Inevitably the greater the darkness the greater the anxiety! I am a little comforted that darkness is defined as the absence of light. It is light that is transformative and not darkness. Light in darkness can be seen for miles. I imagine a lighthouse warning of the danger of rocks to ships many miles away, or on a practical note a torch finding the keyhole on the car! I am amazed by how a little light can affect the darkness. A green LED power light can be used to navigate in an otherwise dark kitchen. A full moon transforms darkness into a magical moonlight landscape. The moon is just reflecting a fraction of the sun’s light towards the earth.
At the end of November, Sunday 29th marks the beginning of Advent; the countdown to Christmas. The season of Advent uses the picture of God’s light shining through people in history. Advent has a second dimension where we are called home to God’s light. We are reminded that we only get glimpses of God and heaven and only at the end of our earthly life do we fully know about heaven as we become part of it. November has a bittersweet feel to it. We remember those who have gone before us in life and in death. It raises a mixture of both happy and sad memories. It reminds us also of our mortality which we very conveniently ignore or forget most of the time. As we talk about the kingdom it is easy to think of earthly kingdoms which can model themes of overwhelming power, an unequal division of wealth and opportunities. These kingdoms reward a few privileged people at the expense of the majority. Jesus models a radically different notion of inclusiveness and generosity. The challenge for each of us is what sort of kingdom are we building, one just for us, or are we trying to encourage and include others?
Rev. Martin Wood. The Rectory, Church Lane, Cheriton Bishop EX6 6HY 01647 24119 (Tuesday to Sunday) [email protected]