‘Advent begins in the dark’, writes Fleming Rutledge. In the book of Genesis, we are told that all of creation also began in the same way - light was created and broke in. There we read that the Holy Spirit hovered over the face of the deep.
Jenny wrote: ‘The darkness is the place where we find God most dynamically. In the unsettling, difficult days of Herod, when so many experienced violence, fear and injustice, God came and made God’s home… If God is to be Emmanuel, God-with-us, God must be with us where the pain is.’
As I reflect on the deep shadow in the story of Herod, a couple of questions come to mind, which I invite you to consider along with me.
How have you or do you experience the spirit of God hovering over the face of the deep in your own life?
What is it like to consider that God might be present to you in this way?
A practice to try
Some of the most beautiful encounters with God written about in the Bible, happened in darkness. Here I invite you to consider one of these through the practice of Lectio Divina - sacred reading.
There are four stages:
First, simply read the passage to yourself, ideally out loud and slowly. Don’t overthink it. Allow the words to land.
Secondly, read the passage to yourself again. As you do, ask God to show you what they want you to notice, and pay attention to what one or two words stand out for you. Again, don’t overthink them, and allow yourself to be taken by surprise. Perhaps this word stands out because it prompts an emotional reaction in you. Perhaps it makes you uncomfortable in some way. Perhaps you have never noticed it before. Allow yourself to sit with that word a short while.
Thirdly, read the passage to yourself again, and ask God as you do, why God wanted you to notice that word in particular. What is God reminding you of? What is God inviting you to notice? Do not rush. Sit with God and listen. Allow the word to settle itself into your being.
Fourthly, read the passage to yourself a final time, and rest in gratitude for your conversation with God, for what has been shown to you through the simplicity of a word. Do not rush to action. Do not overthink it. Like someone who sits back contented at the end of a delicious meal, allow the word and your prayer to rest with you a while.
When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the
trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear.
They stayed at a distance and said to Moses,
‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen.
But do not have God speak to us or we will die.’
Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid…’
…The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached
the thick darkness where God was.
May you find God hovering over the face of the deep places
May you hope that God’s creative presence is at work
May you approach the thick darkness, and find that God is there.
Johanna Derry Hall