Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Darkness Closing Around Us

That magical mysterious day will soon be, I am not talking about Christmas comes 4 days after the day I am talking about.  I am talking about the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice, which comes on December 21.  Winter Solstice contains the least amount of daylight of the year.  After that, the days begin getting longer, little by little, bit by bit, each day until we reach the Summer Solstice, which is June 20 or thereabout.  The Winter Solstice also marks the first day of winter.  I have always thought it is a bit strange that the first day of winter has the smallest amount of daylight and then each day during winter the days become a bit longer, day by day.  Shouldn't it be that the first day of winter has more daylight then the last day of winter?  Well, I did not design it this way.  That was the way God made it to be because God knows how it should work out.

When we encounter the darkest day of the year on the Winter Solstice, we are surrounded by darkness much of the day.  Those of us in the southern United States fare much better than those who live in the north.  While our daytime hours stop about 5-5:30 pm, theirs end around 4-4:30 pm.  I remember when our son went to college in Boston, he would call us and tell us how the sun was setting at 4 pm.  It was hard to imagine that small amount of daytime hours.

The people in Scandinavia have even less light than that.  They have built "light rooms" where people can sit in artificial light and soak up some light when it is dark outdoors.  Their culture also celebrates the Winter Solstice with festivals and parades that feature torches and candles and a lot of light.  They party in the darkness and try to bring cheer to a world of cold and night.

The darkness of winter is a metaphor of sorts for the world around us and, believe it or not, our festive Christmas season was set to coincide with the ancient festivals that happened at the Winter Solstice so as to utilize the customs of the day to bring attention to the light of Christ coming into the world.  When the world is at its darkest, the light of the world comes in and illuminates everything.  When the day is the shortest, there is a light that emerges to bring about more and more light, just as the daytime hours begin getting longer and longer with each day of winter until finally spring emerges.

Back in the 60s, there was a movie called "Endless Summer" about some surfers who traveled around the world following the season of summer so that they could surf throughout the year.  They were in California in June through August and then began their trek to Australia to enjoy summer December through March.

Our spirits long for the light.   That is one of the reasons why scientists have named a disorder "Seasonal Affective Disorder" or SAD for short.  It affects many people during the winter months because with the shortness of the days also comes changes in their moods and general depression.  These people become SAD because they need light in order to live cheerful, happy lives.  Once spring comes and summer soon follows, they feel much better.  They actually like summer even if it is way hotter than they like it to be, just because there is so much light.

I don't really mind winter weather.  I can dress up with sweaters and coats and stay relatively warm, as long as the sun is shining.  When we experience long stretches of grey, rainy or drizzly days, however.  I long for the sun to shine and to make the grey clouds go away.  I need the sun, as do most of us.

The world is a dark place, if you look at the world situation with so many social problems.  Most people think there is no hope for the world.  That is why we need the sun to shine in our hearts to illuminate our faith so we can be the light of the world for those who wander in the darkness.

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness--on them light has shined."  (Isaiah 9:2)
"You are the light of the world.  A city built on a hill cannot be hid...let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.:  (Matthew 5: 14, 16)

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