In case you were unaware, today is the winter solstice. That means that this is the shortest day of the year; the least amount of light and the greatest amount of darkness. For those of us who are sun lovers, the good news is that today is the turning point; from now on the days get longer. Many of you know that I am something of a “weather nerd” as my daughter calls me. I like to track the weather, especially when a big snow storm is coming. I have gotten it down to a science to catch all three of our major networks’ weather forecasts on the 11:00 news (in case, you want to know, start with Ch. 9, switch to Ch. 4, then to Ch. 7…you know, Topper, then Bob, then Doug…I know, it is very pathetic that I am on a first name basis with all of our head weather forecasters…sadly, I can tell you the names of most of their underlings as well!) Anyway, I am not mentioning the winter solstice as purely a weather lesson…it also has to do with Christmas.
I have been reading through a book that I picked up called “Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas.” Get ready for a news flash…it appears that Jesus may not have technically been born on exactly December 25th! Of course, we all probably knew that, but the story of how that date was chosen is kind of interesting. Apparently, it took over 300 years for the early Christian church to pick a date to celebrate the birth of Christ. Many modern scholars think that, based on what we know about Roman census practices, Jesus was actually most likely born in the spring, possibly summer. So why the choice of December 25th, a time of year that clearly does not coincide with those facts? Long before the birth of Christ, many societies set aside the shortest days of the years as a celebration of the “rebirth” of the sun. These pagan rituals were times of partying with wild abandon and were generally held annually around the time of the winter solstice. According to this book, December 25th was probably chosen because church leaders wanted a holy day to conteract the ancient wild festivals held during this time. Even though this date was firmly set in place by Constantine the Great in 325, it wasn’t until the 1800s that most Christians even celebrated Christmas as we know it today. So, what does this little weather lesson/ history lesson have to do with us today?
When I was reading this book, I ran across the following line concerning the celebration of the winter solstice:
It was wonderful to know that the dark days of winter were finally over and spring was just ahead.
When I read this, it seemed to me a beautiful description of what Christmas is all about. When God got down off of His throne in Heaven to be born in that stable, the Light began to grow brighter. The birth of Christ set in motion God’s plan that culminated in His death on that cross 33 years later…and His resurrection 3 days after that. On that cross, Light conquered Darkness once and for all. The dark days of winter…separation from God…were finally over and, for those who would follow, spring was and is just ahead. At that moment of Christ’s birth, the Light became brighter than the darkness, Good triumphed over evil, Hope drowned out despair, and Love conquered hate…FOREVER! No matter what darkness we continue to face in this fallen world, the promise of Christmas is eternal Light. If we are on God’s side, we win! And when we allow ourselves to be filled with His Light, we can’t help but share that Good News with a world that sometimes seems enveloped in darkness.
So, perhaps the winter solstice is not such a bad time to celebrate the birth of the Light. The days are getting lighter and spring is just ahead. I wish you a very Bright Christmas!!