Dec 21 2011

“A Light Has Dawned”

The winter solstice is once again upon us.  This is a day that has been celebrated for centuries.   The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year.  Once it passes the hours of daylight slowly begin to lengthen.  Ancient people found this as cause for celebration.  They were reminded each year at this time that darkness would not prevail.   Many people believe that Christmas came to be celebrated this time of year for the same reason.  We do not know for a fact what month Christ was born.  Some scholars believe it likely occurred in the spring rather than at the start of winter but the date of December 25 may well have been chosen to coincide with the winter solstice because the message of Christmas likewise declares that darkness will not prevail.

Long before Jesus came the prophet Isaiah wrote, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)  This prophecy has been linked with Christ for centuries.  His coming brought light to the world, a light that darkness cannot extinguish.   Jesus himself said “I am the light of the world.”  (John 9:5)  Reflecting on Jesus the author of the Fourth Gospel said, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5)

Darkness can be a scary thing both literally and figuratively.  We all know that darkness often conveys the idea of danger.  It can also be a metaphor for despair.  Darkness pretty much describes what life is like apart from Christ.  Without him things are gloomy.  Without Jesus there is little hope.  Without Christ we live in “the shadow of death.”  If I had to describe in one word what my life would be like apart from Jesus I could think of no more appropriate word than “darkness.”

As the winter solstice approaches and the celebration of Christmas draws near I give thanks that into this world of darkness “a light has dawned.”  I rejoice knowing that because of what God did that first Christmas long ago darkness does not have the final word.  Even though there is still plenty of darkness in the world I remain confident that this darkness will not prevail because that child born in Bethlehem truly was and is “the light of the world.”


(I took the top image of Skylight Cave in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.  I took the bottom image at Sequoia National Park.)

Dec 21 2009

Winter Solstice and Christmas

titmouse 774Today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.  Over the ages people have celebrated the winter solstice because it indicated that more light would soon be returning and that darkness would not prevail.  It is not without reason that we celebrate Christmas at approximately the same time.  In reality, we have no idea what time of the year Jesus was actually born.  Some speculate that a spring date is more likely.  Still, the church chose to celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25, in essence, to “Christianize” a pagan holiday.

The tying of the winter solstice and Christmas makes sense theologically.  Jesus told us that he was the “light of the world.”  Furthermore, John wrote concerning Jesus, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5)  

Just as the winter solstice was a hopeful holiday, so is Christmas.  We know that because Jesus came there is cause for hope.  As Rob indicated in his recent blog, many people today tend to be pessimistic and down on the world.  Because of Christmas we know that God is with us here and now and that darkness does not have the last word.  This is cause to celebrate!

Although most Christians tend to refer to those who celebrated the winter solstice as “pagans,” I have to admit that I find myself admiring them for their sensitivity to the changing seasons and the return of light.  If we hope to see God in His Creation it will help us if we, too, will be more sensitive and in tune to the rhythms and patterns of nature.  As the days begin to lengthen in the coming weeks, remember to give thanks that long ago God sent His Son to conquer the darkness that we find in the world and within our souls.  In fact, today—being the winter solstice—would be a good time to begin doing just that.


(This past Friday, the last weekend of autumn, we were hit with a “winter” storm here in Pikeville.  This caused the birds, like this titmouse, to come calling at our birdfeeder.)