In 2011, a young friend of mine sat with me in Durham Cathedral. Anna Grace was about 6 or 7, and we had been walking around the city, amazed by the lights and the glitter which brought Lumière to parts of Durham normally hidden. Now we sat quietly enjoying the space of that ancient Norman building, watching giant pendulums swing light back and forward, out into the farthest corners and back again, across the marbled floor.
I asked Anna Grace what she had liked most about Lumière. “The shadows”, she replied. She found the shadowed spaces at the edges of the light creative and restful. And I had to agree – the shadows were what made the night-time illuminations beautiful.
I was reminded of Anna Grace’s wisdom at Westonbirt this weekend. The light thrown about the arboretum, lit up for Christmas, was sometimes strange, sometimes pretty. But it was in the shadows that I found creativity and there was peace. The crowds didn’t linger there, preferring to ooh and aah around the glitter and glitz. But in the shadows the beauty of the trees was thrown into relief.
This is Christmas – the spaces and the shadows, the oblique angles and people on the edges where we meet God.