Whether we know it or not, we are all people of rhythm. Rhythm is crucial to the human experience, written into the very fabric of creation. Day and night, seasonal and lunar cycles, high and low tides, seed time and harvest … there is something deeply satisfying about these recurring patterns which minister to our souls.
And we ourselves are created as rhythmic beings with beating hearts, regular breathing, and wakefulness followed by sleep. Rhythms stop life becoming one long continuum and bring colour and shape. These God-given rhythms bring our souls to rest.
There is much we can learn from the ancient seasonal demarcations used in the time of the first missionaries to Britain, as they pinpoint the distinctive characteristics of each period, and give clear starting points for reflection. In their calendars, November ushered in winter with the season of darkness, February brought the season of stirrings, May heralded the season of growth and August began the season of fruitfulness.
Taking the time to slow down and connect with the passing seasons is not only good for our well-being, but also provides the context for revelation. The first chapter of Romans tells us that God has revealed himself in the ‘book of creation’, in particular displaying his eternal power and divine nature for all to see. This is a book which is ever changing, according to season, so let’s take time out to ‘read it’.
Here are six ways to embrace the season of darkness:
The commercial festival season may be gathering steam, encouraging consumers to join the rush to be ready for Christmas, but the countryside is slowing down, settling, ready for its winter rest. It is good for us to take heed and align ourselves, periodically, with this natural rhythm. ‘Slow time’, at intervals, enables us to avoid succumbing to Christmas-induced stress. And there are always sights to gladden the heart: beautiful sunrises and pink November mists, the delicate outlines of leafless trees, and a thousand street lamps lighting up the night …
Enter the silence
As the earth moves into its winter period, it seems that silence descends on the land. In fact, some days are so motionless, it can appear that all life has leached away. In our noisy world, silence can be threatening, but if we can overcome our apprehension, taking time out to absorb the earth’s quiet can be very rewarding. The natural world always invites us into an encounter with the Creator; by allowing the winter-stillness to settle on our souls, we can put ourselves in the way of God. King David encourages us: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; my soul waits in silence for God only; from him is my salvation,”(Psalms 37:7 and 62:1 NASB).
Study the darkness
Using a traditional or online concordance, study what the Bible tells us about darkness and night. Some people fear the darkness, but Scripture tells us that natural darkness was created by God. He is Lord of day and night alike, and his presence can be found in both. Although there are very real evil forces of darkness, it is not an equal struggle: the victory has already been won, Jesus has conquered all on our behalf. (Genesis 1, Psalms 18, 74, 91, 139 and Colossians 1 and 2 are good places to start.)
Pray powerful prayers
Let’s then invite the Lord to shine his light into our personal dark places. Light, by its very nature, always overcomes and dispels darkness. These negatives in our lives are usually strengthened by lies, that is, anything which is contrary to God’s Word. Ask him to reveal both these lies and the opposing truth, for Jesus proclaimed, “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32). We can then pray for ourselves, our families, our homes and our neighbourhoods to be filled with his light.
In biblical times, the autumn-winter rainy period, known as the ‘early rains’, was seen as a gift from God, and a sign of his favour. It was greeted joyfully, as it had the purpose of softening the ground ready for planting. Let’s pray for the ‘rain’ of the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the people around us, ready to receive the wonderful message of Christmas.
Draw the curtains and get cosy
It’s a good time for hospitality. Invite people in for meals and enjoy fellowship in the candlelight. Family and friends at the table, laughing, listening and sharing, provide powerful images of belonging, which feed the inner man. Serve up seasonal food, and decorate the table with seasonal themes – where possible bring the ‘outside in’.
Our ancestors whiled away the dark hours telling stories. We could follow suit. It’s a good opportunity to retell the stories of the Lord’s intervention in our lives, or the accounts of faith from our Christian heritage. We can also honour others by taking time to hear their personal stories. There is a desperate cry from many in our modern world for a listening ear.
The dark time of the year is also a time for dreams and visions. Although the winter landscape can look lifeless, underground, seeds are being nurtured and made ready for spring displays. We can be inspired by this and dust off old dreams. Unpack the deep desires of your heart and pray over them, asking our Father to speak through the night hours. And perhaps there are things we can do, like new parents making preparations for the eagerly awaited big day: sign up for that course, make those contacts, do that research, collect that equipment; whatever is necessary to be ready for the fulfilment of our longings.
Embracing winter, with anticipation and faith, rather than playing a waiting game until our bit of the world warms up again, means we keep in step with our Lord who is also the Creator. He delights in revealing his nature and his ways through the different seasons, and continually invites us into transformational encounters with him.
+ Kate Waterman is passionate about rest and stress relief, and is experienced in church leadership, counselling, healing prayer and pastoral care. Connect with her at www.rhythmsofgraceuk.org