At the end of November, I gathered with my clergy retreat group for 24 hours in the woods. We have been doing this monthly rhythm for over three years-thanks to a generous grant and continually saying "yes" to the gift. Each month, we rotate leadership. The leader picks a theme and makes a soundtrack based on the theme. We pray and tell stories related to the theme. Our November theme was Darkness (the Good Kind). We have so many associations with the dark being bad. "Going through a dark time." "Dark night of the soul." "I've always been afraid of the dark." Even in scripture-"A light shines in the darkness-and the darkness shall not overcome it." What if we consider other connections? If the only associations we have with dark and darkness are negative/scary and things we want to avoid--what an easy, subtle leap toward those same scary feelings about those with brown skin. Could there be a better time than right now to unravel that (perhaps even unconscious) connection?
My colleague, Joy (pastor at Christ Lutheran on Capitol Hill) challenged us to consider the gifts of darkness. She said, "Think of images related to darkness that are good. Like seeds, new birth, Advent, cool shadows, deep sleep, mystery, chocolate, dark earth, indigo night." It's nice, isn't it? To consider the gifts that these hours of December nights bring us? Particularly now, as we close in on winter solstice.
It's no secret that I love to sleep. These days, if there isn't anywhere to be in the evening--I can call it a day at 4:30PM. Yoga pants and pj's without fear of being caught (shock!) giving up on the day as the sun sets. This doesn't even feel possible in July. At 4:30PM in July, we aren't even home from the pool yet. Oh, the gift of crawling into bed and feeling the weight of quilts and giving into sleep. Sometimes, at 9PM.
Each night during Advent, my family meets at the table and lights tea lights...one the first night, two the second...until we get to Christmas. We read a chapter from our Advent story book and everyone gets a piece of chocolate. It's one of my favorite things in the world. It's complete gift. I welcome it and look forward to it all year. Darkness is a gift to me.
Interested in listening in on Joy's Darkness soundtrack? Here's the list. I have played All the Stars and Winter Song over and over and over. Go buy these or create your own soundtrack (and share it with me, please).
All the Stars (Wailin' Jennys) Bird Song (Wailin' Jennys) Anjo Da Guarda (Airto Moreira) Cancion De Cuna (Eliot Fisk) Winter Song (Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson) Lazy Bones (Joel Plaskett) Wedding Song (Tracy Chapman) Spirit in the Dark (Blind Boys of Alabama) Dark Night of the Soul (Loreena McKennitt) Night Ride Home (Joni Mitchell) Closing in On Midnight (Tiller's Folly) El Noi dela Mare (Jean-Felix Lalanne and Muriel Anderson Vicky Cristina Barcelona) Holy, Holy, Holy (Sufjan Stevens) Slouching Towards Bethlehem (Joni Mitchell) Common Threads (Bobby McFerrin) Midnight (David Wilcox) Blessed to be a Witness (Ben Harper) Gratitude (Eric Bibb)