“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1.5)
Today is the turning of the year, the Winter Solstice, our darkest and shortest day, when the sun seems to stand still. From tomorrow there will be gradually more sunshine, the light growing longer each day as winter ebbs and spring edges closer.
For our ancestors, the solstice mattered. Living without electricity and modern conveniences, this turning point was taken as the re-birth of the Sun, the point at which darkness was vanquished. The Romans had Saturnalia around this time; it was also the time of the birth of the god Mithras.
I wonder sometimes whether it was no accident that the early Church decided to set the day for celebrating Christ’s birth on 25th December.
This year, 2020, has been so dark for so many of us. I sense each of us need today’s reminder of eternal nature of light. When the sun lengthens, Mother Nature senses the change, and bulbs prepare to shoot through the soil in Spring.
The return of the Sun’s longer hours, and the physical Light on which all life depends, often brings cheer and renewed hope, even as the winter winds can bite more fiercely in January and February.
There is a long way to go with Covid, and the weekend’s announcements have deeply impacted so many of us in the Benefice, and throughout the country. Nothing about this is easy. We are crying out in disappointment and loneliness to God, knowing that He cares about us, and shares our sorrow.
For those whose plans have been changed and whose hearts feel despair and pain, I pray for you ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’, that Christ may be truly present with you. May you know deeply in your hearts the light of Christ and in your sorrow be able to hold the truth, ‘the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’
I am reminded of the children’s story which I have read to my daughter countless times, and now I find myself saying it in a singsong kind of way. But it is no less true for all that.
It’s the story, “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt”, by Michael Rosen. And the refrain throughout the book is, “Oh No! [insert barrier here]. We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we’ve got to go through it!”
The only way out is through. The only way out of this pandemic is through. It is not an easy truth, and one all of us will grapple with in different ways. As we do this, may we pause and be still, aware of the light growing all around us, and the light within us that is God given. May we allow all our senses to experience the presence of God as we move through together.
As each of us prepares to celebrate Christ’s coming this Christmas in the climate of the Covid-19 pandemic, may we all be able to be honest about what we are grieving this year. And, at the same time, holding hope with both hands and knowing deeply that “the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
May we all intimately know and experience in a new way the light and the presence of God, who travels with us through everything, our sorrow and our joy, especially this Christmas.
It is my prayer for all of us that we will truly remember and know in our minds and hearts the truth of these opening words from John’s gospel – “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”
with light and peace,
(image courtesy SutherlandRoweImages)