The third week of Advent, December 11 – 17
This Week’s Song: “Honor the Dark”
Learn this song and the ASL signs that go with it on YouTube:
About the song
Lea Morris (who also performs as LEA) is as Unitarian Universalist songwriter and musician. This song was composed recently, during the Covid pandemic. This is a great song for this time of year when the nights are getting longer and it may be dark by the time we leave work or school. While we may prefer the light, the dark can also be holy and have gifts for us.
WORD FOR THE WEEK: DARK
How to say “Dark” in American Sign Language… If you watch the song video you will see it!
Hold your arms out to each side with your upper arms a little below your shoulders and your lower arms pointing towards the ceiling, palms flat and towards your face.
Then swing your lower arms inward so that your flat palms cross each other in front of your face. Your hands end lined up in front of your chest, elbows out.
The sign expresses not being able to see, as your hands briefly cover your face.
SOMETHING TO LEARN… What is the solstice?
We live on the Earth, which goes around the Sun. The Earth also spins as it goes around the sun – each spin is one day and night. The Earth tilts on its axis as it spins, which is why in many parts of the world the days are sometimes longer and sometimes shorter. (There is a belt around the middle of the Earth – the Equator – where days and nights are always about the same length!)
Every year has two solstices, a day/night when the Earth is tilted as far as it can tilt. In the summer, in the northern hemisphere (the half of the Earth that’s closest to the North Pole; we live in the northern hemisphere) is tilted TOWARDS the sun. That means we have the LONGEST day of the year – the summer solstice – on June 21st. (That’s also the SHORTEST day of the year in Australia!) In the northern hemisphere, we have the winter solstice – the longest NIGHT of the year – on December 21. It’s coming up, next week!
Even though it is early in the winter, after the solstice, the nights will start getting a tiny bit shorter – bit by bit – and the days will start getting a tiny bit longer – bit by bit. We can honor the dark, and also be glad to see the light beginning to return.
PRAYER PRACTICE for this week…
Take a walk in the dark.
Walk in a familiar area, like the street or block where you live. Be safe; use a flashlight, or go for a walk when it’s not fully dark yet so that you can see. Wear something light-colored if you are walking where there might be traffic.
If walking isn’t a good idea for you, you could sit in the dark on your porch or in your home and see what you can notice there.
If you can find a red flashlight (or tape something transparent and red over a normal flashlight), that can be a good tool for a night walk, because the red light will help your eyes adjust to the dark so you can see better.
Before you set out, ask God to help you notice the gifts of the dark, and to walk with you.
What can you see, in the dark? What can you hear? What can you smell? What do you notice that is different from what you notice in the daytime?
Does it feel different inside of you to walk in the dark?
At the end of your walk give thanks to God for what you noticed or felt on your walk. You could sing this week’s song, “Honor the dark”!
(The Emily Dickinson poem on the Resonating Texts page goes well with this activity.)
- Make a Light & Dark Play area!
Gather some things that are shiny in interesting ways, or colorful and translucent. Suggestions: colored clear or translucent glass or plastic cups, vases, and so on – even things that look solid may be translucent, meaning light can shine through them; shiny/reflective things – mirrors or an old CD or two. If you have a prism or a crystal paperweight, that might be interesting too!
Arrange everything a table. Find a couple of light sources – a flashlight or phone light, a headlamp or small portable lamp that you can point in a particular direction. Glow sticks could be fun too.
Turn off the lights and use your flashlights or lamps to explore how all those things look when you shine a light on or near them in the dark. Can you cast their shadows on the wall?
2. Learn some winter constellations!
A constellation is a group of stars that people have thought for a long time look like a particular shape or creature. There are apps and websites that can help you figure out where to look – or Rev. Miranda can send you files for some constellation pages for winter constellations here in the northern hemisphere.
Celebrate the Feast of St. Lucy, on December 13!
St. Lucy was one of the earliest Christian martyrs, meaning someone who died for her Christian faith. Lucy was a young woman who became a Christian. She made a vow that she would never marry, so she could commit her whole life to following Jesus. She was killed for her faith during persecution under the Roman emperor Diocletian in the year 304.
St. Lucia’s Day is celebrated as a festival of lights in many parts of Scandinavia. Traditionally, a young girl will dress in white and wear a wreath with lit candles on her head. (We do not recommend this!) The wreath with candles comes from a story about St. Lucy. During her life it is said that she brought food and blankets to prisoners in a dark underground prison. Because she wanted to use her arms to carry as many supplies as possible, she made a wreath for the top of her head and inserted candles so she wouldn’t have to carry her candle. (Source: https://www.catholicicing.com/st-lucy/)
The traditional foods for the day are coffee, saffron bread, and ginger cookies. It’s also a traditional time to make gingerbread cookies or houses.
A gory detail: Legend has it that Saint Lucy either plucked out her own eyes to avoid marriage to a pagan, or had her eyes put out by the Emperor Diocletian as part of her martyrdom. Sometimes images of St. Lucy have her holding her own eyeballs on a platter. She is the patron saint of the blind.
These texts offers another perspective on the dark.
We grow accustomed to the Dark Emily Dickinson
We grow accustomed to the Dark –
When Light is put away –
As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
To witness her Goodbye –
A Moment – We uncertain step
For newness of the night –
Then – fit our Vision to the Dark –
And meet the Road – erect –
And so of larger – Darknesses –
Those Evenings of the Brain –
When not a Moon disclose a sign –
Or Star – come out– within –
The Bravest – grope a little –
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead –
But as they learn to see –
Either the Darkness alters –
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight –
And Life steps almost straight.
Ode to Winter – Gillian Clarke, National Poet of Wales – link here:
Cwtsh: Welsh word for a cubbyhole. It also means a hug!
Hiraeth; a sense of longing for something you cannot find.