The winter solstice happens today, December 21. That is when the northern hemisphere reaches the furthest distance from the sun on its annual circle around it. It marks the first day of winter which holds the longest night of the year. There is no darker day.
Anthropologists and historians tell us that in ancient times it was feared in the days leading up to the solstice that the sun would never come back. The darkness would lengthen to envelope the whole earth. There would be no more day. It was the end of the world.
Of course they were without the advantage of modern astronomy, knowing nothing of the sun centered solar system and the earth’s revolving pattern. All they knew was the sun was getting lower on the horizon and it was getting darker. It must have been very frightening.
But suddenly, along about December 25th, a very small difference was noted. The darkness had stabilized. In fact, slowly the days were becoming long- er. And look the sun is getting higher in the sky!! We’re saved!!
The early Christians saw in this cycle what was prophesied by Isaiah, “The people in darkness have seen a great light.” The reference is of course to the coming Messiah – – – Jesus born on Christmas Day.
The image still speaks powerfully given our world today. Doesn’t it seem sometimes that the darkness of the world threatens to overcome the light? (I started to list the threats to our world, but you know them already). Just as the ancients feared the disappearance of the sun, any thoughtful and caring soul would have to at least consider the possibility that the forces of life are losing to the powers of senseless violence and darkness.
To this scary thought we turn to Christ. Christians believe that in Jesus the “Light has come into the world. And the darkness could not extinguish it.” Dear friends we are saved from unending darkness in the light and life that comes to us in Jesus Christ. He does not take the problems facing us away. Rather he gives us the hope, that in the end, he has overcome the darkness. We can devote ourselves unceasingly to working for the betterment of the earth and its people (despite all appearances that the darkness is winning).
How do we know this? Because the child to be born that day in Bethlehem will grow to full stature and take on the powers of darkness on that hill called Calvary. But that story is for later. For now let’s just travel with the young couple Mary and Joseph and wait for the babe to be born.
Please banish all fear in yourself and in others this week. God is with us. God will never abandon us. You are ambassadors of this good news.
Soon . . . .
P.S. Hungry hearts get fed here. Please come again. Bless you!
“We constantly need to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Our salvation depends upon it.”
(Pope Francis, MV.2)