The early onset of darkness in November is a dramatic change. I recall a parishioner from an earlier parish who suffered from depression every year during this darker time. Winter darkness has measurable effect on the way we live: whether it is (for some) a depressed feeling; taking fewer walks and jogs when you get home from work, or having to find a big flashlight to go and get the mail.

However we experience the early dark, we are invited to look at it from the perspective of hope. The calendar year starts on Jan. 1, but the church year begins four weeks before Christmas, with a season called Advent — a word that suggests both coming and arrival: Christ’s coming as a newborn back in the first century, and Christ’s joy-filled arrival when space and time are rolled up and God’s new reality embraces us all.

Thus, in the darkest time of the year, our church calendars start fresh and new, as if to say that there can always be a new start — any day, any month and in every year.

This year, the first Sunday in Advent was on Nov. 30, introducing a theme song for all four Advent Sundays. The refrain is a prayer:

“Great, Holy One, spreading time and space, show us who you are in a human face.”

The song explores the human experience of praying in vain, knocking and getting no answer, and seeking God to give us hope. And where can we meet God?

“In the wisdom of a child, in opponents reconciled . . . When you meet with sudden kindness, find my holy place in your neighbor’s face.”

The song also brings the good news that God is coming to search for us, and find us — “in the person who resists hate and greed, and then persists; when my people work together, righting ancient wrongs, singing peaceful songs.”

To culminate this year’s Advent journey, our Christmas cantata will take up this theme in words and music.

All along the way, in gloom, darkness, or looking for that large flashlight to find our way to the mailbox, God brings good news to us in Christ: As Romans 5:5 says: “Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our heart through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

The four United Methodist churches will join together in a special combined worship service for the second annual Christmas Cantata entitled Great Holy One that includes traditional and new music, scripture and drama. The Cantata, led by Rev. Susan Heafield and Pastor Richard Rego and the narration written by Dr. Brian A. Wren, internationally renowned British author, will take place at Trinity United Methodist Church in Trinity Circle on Sunday, Dec. 21 at 11 a.m. All are welcome to attend. For more information, call the United Methodist Cooperative Ministry office at 508-645-3100.