Thursday, December 21st, is the winter solstice. It is the shortest day of the year. Daylight feels more like a visitor than a substantial part of our day. I often joke to my family that it feels like midnight when in reality we just finished eating supper.
Darkness is a reality throughout the year, but it seems like we feel it more in the winter months. For some, it can be Seasonal Affective Disorder. For others, the memories of years past are haunting because they remind us so vividly of the people we love who are no longer present. The “longest night” can be both a figurative and literal description of our experience and state of mind.
As the Gospel of John notes,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
The light of Christ indeed shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it. But that does not mean that we do not experience darkness. Everyone experiences pain, loss, grief, anxiety, and all sorts of hard things.
Advent is a season of waiting for the Christ-child. As we wait, we are reminded that Christmas is more than decking the halls and feeling joy. It is also about the angels who went to the trouble of ripping the skies open to proclaim a great joy that is bigger than any darkness we can possibly know. Jesus the Christ, Emmanuel, God with Us, is here and we will never be abandoned to the darkness again, no matter how long the night, and no matter how deep our wounds are that he comes to heal.
On December 23rd, we will gather together to acknowledge this reality with a service of Morning Prayer as we celebrate the light of Christmas in the midst of the long nights of the season and to hear the promises of Christ that we are never alone in our grief and pain and anxiety.
May the peace of Christ be with you always,
Pastor for Care and Community