My ten-year-old son, James, sat at the dinner table one evening in late November. His siblings had all scarfed down their supper and had all retreated to their own corners of the house. James was still picking at his dinner. With a furrowed brow and a look of consternation, he said, “I don’t understand why it gets dark so early.” We talked about the time change and the winter solstice and how the days will keep shortening until the week of Christmas when the days will again lengthen, ever so slightly.
This is a hard time of year for lots of us, for lots of reasons. The dark and the cold seep into our bones and we feel poignantly the grief and the loneliness we carry (with us always but this time of year with us in a different way). As the December dark descends on us with its shortened daylight we fight the dying of the light with whatever light we can muster. We buy gifts and share our family newsletters. We make Christmas candy and cookies and string up lights and decorations. Our Christmas ornaments all hung on the tree, as we sing along to our favorite Christmas CD and watch our favorite Holiday movies. We feel the joy these things bring, but always too, the lingering, long dark.
The promise of Christmas is that those of us who have “walked in darkness have seen a great light; those of us who have lived in a land of deep darkness—on us light has shone” (Isaiah 9:2). The Roman occupied province of Judea in the first century (present-day Palestine) was likewise a dark place to live. Injustice and violence, grief and loss, sickness and death, were the lived reality of the day. But then Christ was born and a new light came into the world. Imperceptible at first—just a babe wrapped in swaddling cloth, laying in a manger—but the week of Christmas, the days began lengthening, ever so slightly. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
My hope for us this Advent and Christmas is that we will train our senses to watch for the light, and see the ways that Christ shines in us, even when the days are dark and the nights are long. May the light of Christ’s coming continue to pierce our darkness as we await the light!