I understand why ancient societies in the Northern Hemisphere celebrated the winter solstice. When life and livelihood depended on the sun, noting when daylight began to incrementally conquer darkness was something to be celebrated. Sure, the ancients knew they still had to endure months of cold and darkness before they could shed their heavy clothes and the warmth of their fireside hearths. But at least they had something for which to look forward.
Count me as one of those who look forward to shorter nights and longer daylight. For me, it’s not surprising that early Christians found it convenient to combine the wonder of Jesus’ birth with the inevitability of summer’s bounty and fall’s harvest. They knew that even in darkest winter (according to tradition), the Sun of righteousness had been born to chase away sin and ignorance.
I know that some are too offended by the pagan rituals traditionally attached to Jesus’ birth to truly enjoy the spirit of this season. Some would rather focus on the darkness that envelops the earth than on the light that lightens humanity. But it’s precisely when it’s dark and cold that we have to live this world’s light, as well as celebrate it.
Anyone can look at what’s happening in the world and feel outrage at the violence, brutality, ignorance, poverty, and degradation of the planet and its resources. The larger question is how we can “live as children of light” (Eph. 5:8). What light can we bring to this world’s darkness?
For too long we Christians have been content to light candles and sing about light. Perhaps it’s time to roll up our sleeves, open our wallets, and address the real problems of those who live in our communities. It’s service “to the least of these” that merits heaven’s approval and earns the invitation: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matt. 25:34).
Yes, it’s dark. Yes, it’s cold (for most of us). But “for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays” (Mal. 4:2).
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AT Adjunct Editor
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