People who live in brighter, sunnier places or who have plenty of artificially lit outdoor space near to their home don’t always understand or fully appreciate first light, the gloom that is no longer night time but is before sunrise.
At our home at this time of year, sunrise is at 8.15am. But I could see well enough to be out of the house on an unlit footpath just after 7.30am.
The light is not bright by any means. It has an ethereal quality to begin with, as if you are not sure if you are imagining it or not. But slowly, almost imperceptibly, the sky gets lighter and details you had been missing come into focus.
First light is that time of day where small four-legged things still rustle in the hedgerows and sheep still snore in the fields (and yes, sheep do snore!) It is the moment of ‘not yet’ between darkness and daylight.
In many ways the church period of advent is very much like the experience of first light. As you begin, its only just light, it feels more or less still like night time. But as you progress towards Christmas the light gets brighter until it dawns on Christmas day.
At the moment we are still in the first light period. And there are things we can do to celebrate the coming light. But the sun is not here yet.