Darkness and light

Lighting the Advent candles at St. John the Divine, Victoria. Photo by Alastair Singh-McCollu
Lighting the Advent candles at St. John the Divine, Victoria. Photo by Alastair Singh-McCollu
By on December 1, 2021

Christmas at St John the Divine, Victoria

We are all familiar with the recurring images of light that we use around Christmas time: festive lights on the Christmas tree, “Carols by Candlelight”, the celebration of the Word of God in Christ from John’s gospel chapter one — shining a light in the darkness which the darkness cannot extinguish, or understand, or cover.

Over the past couple of years, however, we at St. John, Victoria, have been questioning our approach to this darkness and light contrast. We have heard from people of different cultures about how giving the impression that dark is bad and light is good has often been behind prejudice against racialized people, and about how colonial images of “the darker nations” have often led to people dismissing Indigenous peoples as savages or those in need of saving by those who are “enlightened.”

In an effort to rethink our colonized mindset and to wrestle with this journey of how we think about these images we at St. John, Victoria, have been thinking of how we view light and darkness, and recognizing that our scriptures, whilst holding positive images of light and the need for light, also say that the darkness is a place where God is found. An excellent book by Episcopal priest Barbara Brown Taylor called Learning to Walk in the Dark made us think again about seeking to embrace and learn from the ideas of darkness, and about creating a healthy balance of images used in our teaching and worship.

We have intentionally thought about our use of images of light and dark, and though we haven’t changed the heart of the liturgies offered by the Church, we have sought to create prayers, opening liturgies and additions that offer another way of thinking.

Before the pandemic, for Advent 2019, we created an opening liturgy for the lighting of our Advent candles that included the theme from Psalm 139 where it says of God: Darkness and light are both alike to you.

Lighting of the Advent Candle

Blessed are you, loving God, creator of the Universe,

All: For you have made all things, and love your creation.

Gracious God, you have made light and dark, day and night, we give thanks for the wholeness of your life. We remember that in light things are clearer, and in darkness we may learn to trust in you and celebrate your mystery,

All: For darkness and light are the same to you

As these Advent lights remind us of the light brought to us from our history, and our welcome into your Church in baptism, we pray that we too may be people of light and life. You are God through all time — God of our forebears in faith, Abraham and Sarah, Moses and Miriam — Patriarchs and Matriarchs of old upon whom our story is founded. May we know you in this time and in this place as the God of now and of always, God of promise, and God of hope. Blessed are you, loving God, creator of the Universe,

All: For you have made all things, and love your creation.

As we approach Christmas this year, we will continue to think about how to weave in these positive images of light and dark, as we continue to try and address and dismantle ideas that cause division or exclusion, learning to decolonize our thought processes and to think again how to be church in this time and in this place.

Author

Skip to content