“Treasures of Darkness” illustration by Gary Gaede

Advent Day 20 – Friday, December 21

As is well-expressed elsewhere in this booklet, we do not generally prize darkness. Scripture itself is full of references to darkness, and usually not as a positive thing. In the beginning, we are told, everything was dark (bad); then God made that famous pronouncement, and there was light (good!). After such an introduction, how can darkness ever live down its reputation?

There are places in the far north where, at certain times of year, the sun never fully sets. That may sound like a swell thing, in the bleak South Dakota midwinter. In reality, though, I don’t think I’d care for it, certainly not for months on end. There is something comforting, something peaceful about the darkness of night. It can be calming, it can be restorative. It is necessary.

But what of those long, dark nights—and days—when we grapple with grief, with sorrow, with fear, all of which seem only amplified by the darkness, real and metaphorical, that surrounds us, envelopes us, smothers us? What of that soul-crushing darkness? It is neither restorative nor calming. It gnaws, it wears, it worries. Where is its value? Why is it necessary? Is it necessary?

It is. Completely.

There is nothing like scarcity to make us appreciate something. Without darkness, what is light? How much more do we appreciate the break of day because the night was long and dark? How much more do we value our faith because it has sustained us through the darkness?

Perhaps it is no mere historical coincidence that Advent occurs at a time of year when the days are their shortest (in the Northern Hemisphere, at least!). It gives us more time to contemplate and, yes, treasure the darkness.

That said, I refer you to the top of this page: Friday, December 21—the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. After tonight, the days will grow longer again, the hours of darkness will shorten. Perhaps we will treasure the darkness more as its duration shrinks.

Heavenly Father: You created all things, the light and the dark; you set in motion the rising and setting of the sun. Help us to understand and appreciate the treasures of both light and dark. Amen.

—Bill Reynolds