Light in the winter dark

<em>A December morning at the Christine Center</em>
A December morning at the Christine Center

Among the joys of this season are the many holy days, some solemn and some celebratory. That we humans find within ourselves so many ways to commune with the divine and bond with each other is what makes this time of year especially happy and meaningful for me. These days have a rich depth that others lack.

For me, the holiness of the season arises from the length of the winter nights: It’s a reaction against the darkness as a spiritual metaphor. The joy, the love, the celebrations are light against the darkness, both of the night and of my soul. Just as cold and dark weigh heavily on my body, cruelty and indifference burden my spirit. Light in darkness is an archetypal symbol that’s central to ancient Judaism and early Christianity. Hanukkah is the festival of lights. The biblical contrast of darkness and light correlates other biblical contrasts: bondage and liberation, exile and return, injustice and justice, violence and peace, deceit and truth, death and life. Perhaps that’s why we Christians love the imagery of Jesus being born in the middle of the night at winter solstice--the moment of deepest darkness.

We Christians sing “Silent night holy night all is calm all is bright,” “Oh holy night the stars are brightly shining,” “Yet in the dark street shined the everlasting light,” and more.

We don’t actually know when Jesus was born. Around the year 350, Pope Julius declared December 25 as the date, integrating it with the Roman winter solstice festival celebrating the “birthdate of the unconquered sun.” Before that, Christmas had been celebrated at different times by different groups of Christians, including March, April, May, and November. The Romans, too, were celebrating light in the dark, and it seems that light is a key quality of the sacred in a great many faiths. We speak of seeing, awakening, visions, epiphanies, and glory (which means radiance).

The symbol resonates well with me. Perhaps that’s why I so enjoy the candles and colored lights that adorn our tree, home, and neighborhood. The compassion of Christmas and the love that was Christ’s life and law are the lights that lift me.

You may have your own context that brings you joy in this season. Here at the Christine Center, we don’t direct your journey, we celebrate it and empower you to make the most of it. However this season speaks to you, my prayer is that you will feel a blessing:

May winter’s breath fall gently on your face

your spirit’s light pierce darkened skies

your journey lead to greater peace, and

this season’s love bring oneness to us all.

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