‘And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.’
Genesis 1: 14-19
While God creates light on Day One of the creation story, Day Four sees the creation of celestial objects to populate the sky and fill the spaces of day and night. God declares both the night and the day to be good.
Day Four reminds us of the wealth of goodness held by the darkness – a time for rest, for cool in a hot climate, and for sleep. As Psalm 104 says ‘he made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down. You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl.’
Many of us don’t live in places that are dark enough to see the stars, as light pollution has become so bad that more than one third of the human population is no longer able to see the Milky Way. As well as ruining our star-gazing, light pollution can be fatal for creatures that use the dark and light in particular ways. Thousands of baby turtles die every year in Florida, when they make their way towards the artificial light of the properties along the beach, instead of towards the sea with the light of the stars shining on the water. Migratory birds can also become disorientated from artificial light, which can change their flight behaviour, sleep patterns, and reproductive capacity.
Traditional solar and lunar festivals of the northern hemisphere, marking such occasions as the summer and winter solstice, and spring and autumn equinox, have been associated with paganism, and the Christian Church has avoided these celebrations. However, Ruth points out that we can use these markers to reflect the passing of time, and themes of light and darkness and gratitude for God’s continued involvement in our world.
We can also use them as a reminder of how the seasons are changing because of the climate crisis, and as a prompt to commit ourselves to action.
The Season of Creation has become popular across Christian denominations, running from September 1 to October 4. Churches around the world use this time to focus on caring for God’s creation, through worship, teaching and practical action.
However we choose to mark the changing seasons and celebrate creation, Ruth encourages us in this chapter to remind ourselves on a regular basis of our dependence on the earth, and how our worship should include gratitude for the beauty we get to behold.
At the end of this chapter, Ruth says:
‘Therefore, every action we choose to take that looks after this world (even when it’s raining… or too hot… or inconvenient… or maybe more expensive… or not the usual thing to do and makes us look different…) shows our wish to live in anticipation of the future that Jesus’ death on the cross and the presence of his Holy Spirit guarantees, and we move towards the future glory that God will reveal through his creation’ (p.104).
While we navigate the darkness of the coming weeks and months, filled with uncertainty and anxiety for many, may we trust that the darkness has a place in our world, and may its beauty and its teachings be revealed to us, when we slow down to listen.
A prayer on the sun, moon and stars from the Philippines
Our heavenly Father, as we look up to you
in the vastness of the skies,
The sun that you have made opens our
eyes to a world lit in colour and clarity,
And the moon and stars remind us of
your faithfulness and steadfast presence,
amidst the seasons of darkness and
our community’s moments of uncertainty.
Lord Jesus, you have shown us how
from beginning to end was the light of love,
That as endless as the heavens above
so is the grace that sustains all things,
So with faith that the Spirit has wrought in
us, we seek the care every creature is to have,
As we dream, hope, and labour for a future
wrapped in the fullness of joy that
your new creation brings.