There’s a place in Alaska that had its last sunset on November 17th and will not see a proper sunrise until January 22nd. There will be civil twilights on either end of the day, yes, but it’ll be a pretty dark, overall, in Utqiagvik, Alaska.
Darkness can be depressing. If you or someone you know has suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder, you know that it is a real thing. Folks have “the blues”, they hunker down, they ride it out. In ancient societies, the leaders would have a midwinter festival, oftentimes, to give their people a point of light. Of hope. Something to look forward to and prepare for as they waited out a long, cold, and often dark time.
Hope is a psychological boost.
It’s the first Sunday of Advent, and the tradition that stretches back anecdotally as far as AD 380 is that it is the week of HOPE as Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus.
Jesus was likely born in September, granted, and the celebration of his birth in December accomplished purposes political as well as psychological. For the purposes of my advent series this year, we’re going for traditional observances.
Hope is a thing, in our traditions.
From Isaiah 9:2 (HCSB)
[b]The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
a light has dawned
on those living in the land of darkness.
When one is surrounded by thick, utter darkness, it can feel pretty hopeless. A good, working bout of clinical depression can affect our perception of our environment too, making us feel stifled, surrounded by darkness, and without hope.
Sitting in the dark without a visible way out can be dreadful.
But . . . light a candle. One flame in that darkness will lighten the spirit. Go out into the sunshine, and your whole body will physically respond. When there is light, a person can perceive direction. They can take steps toward or away. There is hope, in light. When someone has hope, they tend to stand taller, hold their head up, straighten their posture.
They can breathe more easily, which brings air into their system and produces beneficial chemicals in the brain. Deep breathing is proven to increase clarity of thought and lessening of anxiety.
It can be a lot like hope, this breathing. Because there is light.
In the Gospel of John, chapter 8, we can read:
Then Jesus spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.”
(v. 12, Holman Christian Standard Bible)
Open your eyes and see the light. Experience the Hope that is gifted to you in the light of the world. 🙂
And get ready for Christmas!