Today is the winter solstice, which makes for the shortest day and longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere. Whether this is a day we’d rather avoid or one we approach with sacred awe, tomorrow’s truth is the same: there is only more light to be had from here.
It is most likely that Christmas was placed on the calendar at this time of year to counterbalance (or replace) festivals and rituals associated with the solstice. But Christianity has often had a knack for adapting rather than supplanting what came before. And so we still have the evergreen trees and the candles, which while reflecting Christian meanings of eternal salvation and Jesus, the Light of the World, also speak to the things all people long for at this time of year: signs of life amidst winter’s dormancy, some light and warmth amidst the cold darkness.
The blessing of the greens and the lights is that they simply exist. We don’t have to have put up a tree or placed candles on the sills to see them; they are there as we gaze towards the woods or the night sky. They hold out the promises that more life and light will come again, and there isn’t much we can do about it.
But they also remind us that light and life are here even now. Even if things are darker and colder then we’d prefer. Even if our spirits aren’t as buoyant as we remember them being in years past. Even if we’re not as prepared as we’d like to be. (And think of the good company we have in Mary, Joseph, and the innkeeper!)
There was plenty of life and light already on hand to cradle the infant savior when he first arrived in Bethlehem. As we approach this weekend and all that it brings, may we with grateful hearts find rest amidst God’s branches and beacons.
With prayer on this longest night,