Winter is coming.
When I was a kid we did a camping trip in Colorado. Most of my family on my mom’s side still live in the Denver area and are avid climbers. One time when I was in elementary school we camped up in the mountains. I cannot honestly remember what time of year it was, what we did on that camping trip, or any other details. I just remember it was cold. I have this vague memory of it being so cold and so dark that night that all we could do, was hope for dawn. With the hope that light would shine, there was hope that it wouldn’t be as cold or dark.
We took a family photo that next morning and again, my memory may be filling in the gaps here…but we look rough. We look tired and cold.
Right now some of us feel a bit like I did on that camping trip. It feels cold and dark. You may be holding on to a thread hoping that light will shine. Maybe grief or pain seems to be growing in your life and faith is struggling. Interesting, some Christian traditions remember St. Thomas this week. It is a remembrance of the disciple, the one who walked with Jesus, the one who was a realist found himself post resurrection doubting that Jesus was alive. He is the one that wouldn’t believe what happened to Jesus, rising from the dead defeating sin and death until he touched the wounds on Jesus’ resurrected body. The week that many remember doubting Thomas is also the week that winter begins.
Did you know winter doesn’t begin on November 1st. Or on Black Friday. Or on December 1st. The first day of winter begins on a day called the winter solstice or midwinter. This date is either December 21st or 22nd. That day, right before Christmas is the day winter technically begins. Now, it’s an interesting thing that the winter solstice, the day that winter actually begins is also the shortest day (light) and longest night (light). It is also the week we remember the disciple who doubted. In some churches they gather on this date to have a Longest Night Service or a Blue Christmas service. A time to gather, to recognize the hurt and pain in the midst of a season filled with joy and light.
That is the juxtaposition of Christmas.
Christmas is light in the midst of dark, warmth in the midst of cold, hope in the midst of pain, peace in the midst of strife, joy in the midst of sorrow, and love in the midst of fear and hate.
How peculiar that the week that we celebrate Christmas and the day that we remember Christ being born, the day that we remember God stepping into creation is only days after the longest darkest night, a day filled with grief and doubt? Not only that, but this year, it will be the coldest night in years for many places. It’s as though when times are darkest, when nights are longest, when things are most cold and difficult, when hope and faith seems to be waning, that is when we remember light and life shining.
I’m not sure where you are this week. I’m not sure if hope feels plentiful or you are barely holding on. No matter, please know you are not alone. Our Savior’s name is Emmanuel, which means God with us. Even in your darkest most difficult moments when you feel completely alone, you have a God who is with you. He does not leave you or forsake you.
Remember that truth today and all the days of your life.
Years from now you may look back at this moment and remember the darkness. Remember the cold. Remember the difficulty. But hopefully you will also remember making it through the night. You may look rough. You may look tired and cold. Though the sorrow may last for the night, joy comes with the morning.
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
Join us this Saturday as we celebrate light shining into darkness with the birth of our King, Jesus.