by Christine Sine
I grew up in Australia where we celebrate Advent and Christmas in the middle of summer. References to God’s light penetrating the darkness conjured up images not of burning candles, but of gazing up at the Milky Way and the Southern cross on a hot balmy evening. It was an integral part of my childhood.
One of my dreams was to see the aurora borealis. It is still on my bucket list. This amazing display of light illuminates the darkness of the coldest days. Gazing at photos of it reminds me that God illuminates the darkness of our world in spectacular ways. That is what the story of Advent is all about – light penetrating the darkness in sensational and unexpected ways, inviting us to gasp in awe and wonder at the mighty display.
These days we are rarely aware of the lights that shine in the darkness. The light of the stars is dimmed by the myriad artificial lights that make up our world and at Christmas, those lights blaze around us in vivid displays. As you know, my own little corner is alight each morning with their brilliance but these are strategically placed to draw me into the light of Christ, not away from it. In the evening we light up our porch and Christmas tree with colored lights. Their brilliance grows each year; as I–like many of my neighbors–add new strings of light to our display.
What would our world look like without all these artificial lights I wonder? Evidently, the luminous glow of light pollution prevents nearly 80 percent of people in North America from seeing the Milky Way in the night sky. https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/06/10/481545778/light-pollution-hides-milky-way-from-80-percent-of-north-americans-atlas-shows Our home galaxy is now hidden from more than one-third of humanity.
Except for those glorious nights of my childhood, there are only a few occasions on which I have been privileged to see the full glory of the God-given lights in our world, and I still remember them vividly. I remember the long sails across the Atlantic and the Pacific when I was on the Mercy Ship M/V Anastasis. We would often sit on deck without a single artificial light shining. The Milky Way was truly awe-inspiring. Then there was my first visit to New Zealand and the Waitomo Caves. We were rowed into position in a small boat, then they turned off all lights. In a few minutes, glowworms appeared across the entire roof of the cave. It was truly spectacular.
Artificial light dims our view of God’s world. Does it also dim our view of God? Especially in this Christmas season when so many artificial lights surround us, what do we miss out on because of the intensity of the light pollution they produce?
Read John 1:1-5
In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
2 He existed in the beginning with God.
3 God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
4 The Word gave life to everything that was created,[a]
and his life brought light to everyone.
5 The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it
What struck me as I read these words today is that though the darkness cannot extinguish the light of Christ, the wrong kind of light can. Turn off all the lights around you and surround yourself with as much darkness as is possible. Sit in the darkness for a couple of minutes. Watch the meditation below and/or the video of the glowworms above. Several of the images in the meditation are of the aurora borealis. When you are finished, close your computer and turn off your phone. Sit in the darkness for a couple of minutes again, imagining the lights you have seen as the light of Christ shining in the darkness.
Turn on the lights. Ask yourself What are the lights that dim the light of Christ in me and radiating out from me? How is God prompting you to respond?
Image used with permission: Craig Goodwin, https://www.craiggoodwin.com/