This time of year the darkness comes early (around 5:00pm where I live). Many of us fill our homes with candles, strings of lights, and other decorations to bring light in the darkness. Neighborhoods light up with outdoor decorations.
Nature also senses this darkness as winter approaches. Deciduous trees become dormant, and animals prepare for the cold weather by storing up fat reserves and food, or by migrating or hibernating.
A few things in nature thrive in the colder weather and reduced sunlight. Holly begins to produce its fruit– bright red berries– in late autumn and winter. The lush evergreen leaves offer hope in the December landscape.
For those who celebrate Advent, this is a season for preparing mind, heart, and spirit for Christ’s birthday. Candles are also lit during early December for Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. As we get closer to the Winter Solstice (December 21st), we experience the longest night with the promise that daylight will gradually increase.
For those who are grieving, it may be especially difficult to face family gatherings, festivities, and holiday cheer. In a way, it may feel as if your spirit and emotional self have become dormant. Some churches acknowledge and honor others’ grief by offering a “Longest Night Service” on or near the Winter Solstice. The songs, messages, and prayers of this service are sensitive to mourners.
If this is a period of grief or disorientation for you – a dark night of the soul – remember that you are not alone and that the darkness will not endure.
While in the darkness, we can be gentle with ourselves…focusing on what is life giving. We can take solace in nature as it is always there for us, offering comfort in its patterns and beauty.
We can abide with those needing support and find ways to let our inner lights radiate…offering our hope, service and presence.
If you would like to connect with nature in a meaningful way this season, consider using Advent in the Forest. Follow along with your head, hands, and heart as woodland flora and fauna journey to Christmas.