…he hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long dead. (Psalm 143:3 KJV)
One Christmas, my brother and I sleeping on fold-out beds in our grandparents’ living room, I found myself awake well past the usual hour, and my thoughts like the room plunged in obsessive black, save for a red electric glow from some unidentified source, I knew no comfort to tether me to the physical facts of things – that here I was, and there my brother was, and upstairs my grandparents slept and somewhere out there was the lapping of the sea, only knew the daggers my nighttime mind turned inwards and the sheer obsidian absence of light, and though morning and my brother’s voice restored me to earth, the night with its limitless black save that relentless red glow have clung to me since as the knowledge of Hell. I must have a light that can dispel such a dark.
But for now, in what passes as daylight,
remember those who dwell in night,
remember the night that lies before
those who fail to remember the light.
Remember the absence
of memory or light,
remember the path out of darkness
One candle grows short, a second descends,
And three others wait for the rising of light.
Wicks burn down and dwindle, yet hope still appends
The longing of prayers in the slow Advent night.
In the day, though the shouting of sun may shut out
The lamenting of captives, yet watch in the night,
For Advent is slowing: our rushing, our doubt,
Yes, Advent is dwindling – right down to the quick –
And Advent is hoping, and looking, though sight
Is obscured, and deferred hope makes the heart sick.
Advent is finding new candles to light:
When the length of the waiting diminishes cheer,
The light still will flicker, to shut out all fear.
Calendar flaps decked with chocolate each day;
Shops tinsel-lined as though God intended
The season to dazzle our wallets away.
Advent is not for the first-fruits of commerce,
Nor is it for month-long pre-parties and drinks,
And not for fluoro-lit reindeers dispersed
In gardens, despite what the suburbs may think.
No, Advent is waiting: for succour, for light.
Advent is silence, four centuries’ thirst
And prophecies ringing on into the night.
Christmas appeases, but mourning comes first:
Emmanuel promised, but light not yet here;
Our night-time rejoicing, till dawn shall appear.
On the shortest day, I walked down to
the garden where, stretched out across
the grass, the out-turned
the night soon here.
Vestigial glow bedecked the trees
and roof-tops sank, the light soon gone.
In the evening cool the
by homeward feet.
But I had left my home to see the light;
I traced its steps from pallid green
treetops to underpass
and marvelled at
and dusk’s perfect lull.
Pink clouds settled to evening grey, yet
the story was not sad: the day
was gift, was treasure.
And how glorious!
how perfectly bright the light
set against the dark.
Carlton kept in darkness slept,
The streetlights out, the roadside swept
With rain that afternoon and feet
Bewildered by the night.
The city never sleeps, they say,
And anxious souls in search of day
Pit-pattered while inside the homes
Smart-phones took place of light.
Commerce halted, leisure paused,
Proprietors despised the cause,
While some found hope across the street
Where power caught their sight.
Not quite as thick as Egypt’s, though
A danker hue than cities know,
The darkness over Lygon Street
Unsettled with its bite.
Yet refuge lay where light still shone,
And in the end, it came back on
Across the street, and Carlton spun
Back into groove, aright.
The sounds of muffled life returned
And in the sky the streetlights burned,
Declaring never would the day
Depart, nor win the fight.