‘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 www.gettoglasgow.com