Singing in the Dark

23 March 2021
Comments 3
Category Blog, News, Wild Christian
23 March 2021, Comments 3

‘About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.’ Acts 16:25

A couple of years ago I was awoken abruptly at 2am in a Birmingham New Street Hotel. I’d just slept through several hours of late night sirens and drunken singing in the streets below. The restless, relentless city noise didn’t wake me, no, it was something much more beautiful and familiar, but so out of place that it took a moment to work out what it was. A blackbird, singing just outside my window, 5 hours before the dawn.

I reached for my phone and searched online “do blackbirds sing at night?”. Apparently they do. Nocturnal bird song can be triggered by artificial light, but also by loud noises such as thunder, fireworks and… car alarms. So when the alarm of a car down below pierced the night in Birmingham, the blackbird’s timeless rhythm was disturbed and it burst into morning song. Whilst scrolling with my thumb, searching for information, I noticed several references to skylarks also singing before the dawn. On further research, I discovered that skylarks often sing while it’s dark during the breeding season. Their song-flight begins hours before dawn, and continues until well after dusk, as a sign to their potential mate that they are healthy and strong.

On a beautiful spring day, the skylark’s song is the perfect soundtrack for a walk in the wonderful British countryside. When several sing together, it’s like the sky has come alive, the air is filled with their song. I like to imagine that the skylarks play the first delicate notes of the morning symphony, while the rest of the orchestra roosts in trees and bushes, motionless and silent, waiting to join in. Like a world class string section playing their hearts out for the God of creation. Sadly the population of skylarks in the UK is in decline (by 51% between 1995 and 2015), and this downward trend is continuing. 

Skylarks sing because of the promise of the light, not the realisation of the light. 

This Easter, it will be impossible to sing as we normally would. Instead, can we worship like Paul and Silas, who kept singing praises in prison despite their chains? Acts 16 (v22-35) so wonderfully highlights how God can work through all circumstances; within the midnight-hour the jailer, commanded to carefully guard the disciples, goes from drawing a sword on himself (all the prison doors are opened due to an earthquake) to his whole household being saved, baptised and served a meal! The jailer, at first trembling with fear (v29), ‘was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.’ (v34). Just as God works in this ‘locked-up’ story, our Easter hope in Jesus means that we can trust in Him to turn things around in our own lockdown stories too. 

On Easter Day, let’s remember too that Mary Magdalene also got up early, while it was still dark, and started walking towards the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body with spice and oils. She did not know the tomb would be empty, but still she rose like a skylark in the dark. 

The dawn is coming! In faith let’s rise and sing out our hearts in our homes and gardens this Easter. Let’s reach out and bless our communities and creation as a sign of our inextinguishable hope in Jesus our Saviour.

This reflection article was written by Chad Chadwick for the Wild Christian email, ‘Nature and the UK.’ Chad Chadwick is the Youth Mission Enabler for the Diocese of Peterborough. He is also a regular A Rocha UK Supporter and organiser of the Get to Glasgow pilgrimage to COP26

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3 responses on “Singing in the Dark

  1. Mrs Emma Green says:

    Hi thanks for this. I’m up in an urban area of Sheffield. At the end of our road are woods and an ancient common(google Wincobank Hill Fort if you are interested) We have lived here for the last seven years, but only during lockdown did I really appreciate this wonderful place. For many cultural and social class-based reasons, the local population are not really interested and it’s very underused except for dog walkers. I use it as a beautiful backdrop to my walk to my allotment. I’ve taken loads of photos, recorded bird song and prayed. I’m a Catholic, aspiring to become a Franciscan Tertiary and this is how I relate to God. Through the Mass of course, through the Sacraments, undoubtedly, but, also through nature. When, many years ago now, I lived and worked in London, I loved watching the urban wildlife, the fox with her cubs on the embankment by the busy rail lines into East Croydon station, the ring-tailed parakeets in the parks (incidentally they are up here as well and a friend of mine in Leeds says they are in his local park also!) and the slow worms in the undergowth near my local tram stop. God’s wonderful creation was here long before us and will survive long after we have all gone. That’s the mystery of eternity.

  2. Rosemary Jarvis says:

    I enjoy the robin’s song on most of my walks on the edge of fields near my home & I talk to them & tell them how much I appreciate their wonderful song. One Robin I was talking to really sat for a while as long as I talked as if he appreciated the praise. I am a Cof E christian inspiring to be Franciscan as I spend a lot of my time watching for wildlife, plants,birds & animals on my walks & in my garden I was even serenaded by a beautiful Blackcap last summer & was rewarded for my love for them by so many different species enjoying my offerings during the winter. I have to say I am less enamoured by the badgers’ offering of various holes dug in different parts of my small patch of garden uprooting my cared for plants but that is their way & I remind myself that they were here before our houses were built so I am probably trespassing on their usual patch.

  3. Tim Jenkins says:

    I thank Jesus for the skylarks I hear when I walk my dog near Cambridge.