#AdventBookClub: Rachel & #Advent20: Appreciating the Dark

#AdventBookClub: Rachel & #Advent20: Appreciating the Dark

Luke 2 – 36-38

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Image from Wikipedia

One of those uncomfortable passages in the Bible “The Slaughter of the Innocents“, which is very uncomfortable to read, and even more so through the voice of Rachel, who graphically watches her 10 month old son’s throat slit in front of here because of Herod’s fear of Jesus as a challenger to his throne. Rachel indicates that she wishes no harm to Jesus, but wishes he hadn’t been born:

I stare, silently raging against the gathering blackness of the night. My light has gone out.

There’s a definite theme of light and darkness coming through here … can surely be few things as dark as watching the child you’ve given birth to murdered. Sometimes, we need a gentle light to come back in and help us contemplate:

Image from The Worship Cloud
Image from The Worship Cloud

From yesterday’s #Advent20 with Brian Draper (which makes me think of the candle we used the other week at retreats to signal that we were sitting down to eat, to focus on the beautiful food we were eating):

It gives, she says, of the materials of its outer form in order to release the heat and fragrance held within it. That’s when we see what a candle really is: ‘its outer life is tallow and wick; its inner life is flame.’ God, through Jesus, is surely our shining example: giving of himself, selflessly, luminously, to light the way.

In today’s email, Brian draws our attention to an article by Barbara Brown Taylor ‘In Praise of Darkness’, in which she highlights that she feels her life is more like the waxing and waning of the moon, rather than the steady light of the sun. We are often afraid of the (real and metaphorical) dark but:

Instead, I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.

We live in a world, however, where we seek to be distracted from the dark, learning from “gurus” how to be happy, how to eat/buy, etc. in order to shut out the darkness, rather than learning the lessons that it has to teach us. Taylor also indicates that there are theological problems with seeking to polarise light and dark (as most church liturgy does), identifying God with the sunny side of life, and leaving you on your own in the difficult times… tucking away those things out of sight, rather than dealing with (e.g. depression) in any meaningful sort of way. Such positive churches are brilliantly life-affirming when all is going well, but when things go wrong, you’ll be told “God won’t give you more than you can handle“, etc., and church won’t seem to be a place of refuge.

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