As we enter Advent, the season in which we anticipate Christ’s arrival, I find myself thinking about Daylight Savings Time—probably because I’m sitting down to write this as my husband sets a reminder on his watch to turn our clocks back tonight.
It may seem odd to associate Advent with a season of increasingly long nights—in Advent, after all, we light candles, we hang lights, we make everything glow—but it just makes sense to me that if we are to celebrate the dawning of a new light (Isaiah 9:2; Matthew 4:16) we must first acknowledge the darkness that precedes it.
Every year, a week or two before Christmas, the Care Ministry of Vineyard Columbus pauses for one evening to do just that.
This year we will celebrate our 5th annual Blue Christmas service on Wednesday, December 16th, albeit in a different format than usual. Often called “Longest Night” services, Blue Christmas services are traditionally held on the Winter Solstice, because the winter solstice is the longest night of the year. The night of greatest darkness.
Blue Christmas services are meant to provide a time and space for us, as broken people on a broken planet, to acknowledge the darkness of a world not yet fully restored. A time to remember when Humanity waited in deep, deep darkness for the Light of the World to arrive. A time when we look forward, in our own darkness, to his light coming again and defeating the darkness forever.
And a time when we can—in the midst of typically festive holiday—acknowledge our own season of darkness and sorrow before the Lord in a safe setting.
People find themselves in the dark for any number of reasons. Perhaps you are there right now—unable to see and fumbling frantically for the light switch. Perhaps you’ve lost a loved one and you’re dreading the holiday season without them. Perhaps you’re grieving a divorce, the loss of job, the absence of a spouse or a child because that gift hasn’t yet come to you. Financial struggle, family discord, physical ailments, global pandemics—there are a great many things that can bring on a season of darkness. A long, “dark night of the soul.”
The goal for the evening is twofold: to give people who need it the space to acknowledge this personal season of darkness before the Lord and meet him in it, and to likewise give people space to express their longing for God’s light in their own lives. And it truly is a beautiful night—I must confess, I’ve come to look forward to it even more than I do Christmas Eve. Which is weird, I know.
But there is something holy that happens when we begin in darkness, and then add the light of Christ. Because what happens, then, is that the light of Christ spreads. And as each person adds their own light—signifying both an acknowledgement of their loss or difficulty this Christmas season and an affirmation of their faith that the light will always push back the darkness—we push that darkness back, ourselves, simply by being present with one another and adding our one small light to another’s small light.
And when we leave, the Chapel is aglow.
The Light of the World has come.
So, perhaps, it is not so unusual to see Advent and daylight savings time as somewhat intertwined—as both are about waiting, together, for the light to come, and for the darkness to flee.
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”