The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:5 ESV
Yesterday my various social newsfeeds were filled with “spring forward” posts – a reminder for parts of the United States to set their clocks an hour forward as Daylight Savings Time kicks in again. It reminded me that here in the southern hemisphere we’ve been sliding back to winter from the middle of December. By accident I was up before six am yesterday and to my usually-only-up-at-seven-am-surprise, I found the world decidedly darker. Outside lights were still burning in the cool blue gloom.
Easter is two weeks away. At my old church the formal, by-the-book liturgy for Easter was all wrong because it had been written with the northern hemisphere in mind. So a lot of it was about connecting the resurrection of Jesus Christ with spring’s blossoming; completely inappropriate for a place where the leaves were dying and drying, the nights lengthening, the heat parsed to the middle of the day. It was up to us as individuals to line up the earthly seasons and the ecclesial ones. Instead of stepping from the darkness into longer days and sunshine like our northern hemisphere sisters and brothers, the world is spinning us slowly into the frigid arms of winter. But it starts slowly. Autumn is all warm hues: greens giving way to browns and oranges and yellows; trees’ bare limbs becoming slowly exposed. The air will smudge with the smoke of grass fires. Birds will trek across the skies, looking for warmer places and friendlier climates. Space heaters will be unearthed and fans reluctantly stowed away; musty blankets shaken out before being layered over beds or wrapped around cold ankles.
Perhaps in this season of Lent and Easter we are too eager to “spring forward”. We want to skip past the heart-rending darkness of the crucifixion to the glorious hope and joy of the empty tomb. Past winter, to spring again. But it doesn’t work that way. First we must linger here. The Passion is a mourning process. In our Christian walk we need to work through all the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression. Only then can we accept what has been done for us. It is only in understanding the depth of Jesus’ sacrifice, of his pain and humiliation and suffering, that we are able to comprehend the depth of his love. We need to grieve the death of Jesus or we will never be able to properly understand the significance of his resurrection.
Instead of fearing Good Friday this Easter, let us rest here in its darkness. Let’s leave behind every dead thing weighing down our hearts in the shadow of the Cross. Let us mourn those things, knowing that even though it’s dark now, the Light has come. As surely as winter will follow autumn, and spring on winter, so we can be sure that the empty tomb follows the bloody cross, and light, darkness.
O God, who brought us to birth,
and in whose arms we die,
in our grief and shock
contain and comfort us;
embrace us with your love,
give us hope in our confusion
and grace to let go into new life;
through Jesus Christ.