There are nights when I don’t sleep well (stress, hormones, illness – they’ve all played their part) and there are nights when I haven’t slept at all. On those nights, having abandoned hopes of unconsciousness and diverted wandering brain with writing or reading, there comes a time when I am distracted by the indigo inkiness of my back garden gradually diluting into a dove grey as the night imperceptibly retreats before the dawn.
Sometimes the sky just fades to white or the pale blue of washed out denim. Sometimes it is streaked with candy floss pink and apricot. It brings feelings of quiet peace, acceptance and hope alongside the exhaustion. As the new day begins, ironically, it’s when I’m most likely to finally fall asleep.
If I look at a photo, I can’t tell (unless I already know the compass direction the camera was facing at the time), whether the colour streaked sky is a sunrise or a sunset. Either brings great beauty; it’s just the order of the process that is different.
With a new addition to our extended family this month and the realisation that another member may be reaching the end of their journey, it strikes me that there is great beauty to be found at the dawn and dusk of life as much as at the start and finish of a day. Everything is simple and vivid; it’s just the order of the process that is different.
For those of us with a faith in Jesus, we know that the sunset and the sunrise, and everything in between, is not experienced alone, that, as Henri Nouwen puts it in the prayer at the end of this post, Jesus is the ‘master of both the light and the darkness.’ We know too that every final sunset will be followed by an ultimate sunrise. This prophecy by Malachi, which is what this Jesse Tree symbol represents, promises this:
‘For you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its rays.’
Let’s watch both the sunrise and the sunset with hope.
Master of both the light and the darkness,
Send your Holy Spirit on our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say. “Come, Lord Jesus!”
(Henri J.M. Nouwen)