This year the winter solstice is slated for December 21, a time when the Northern Hemisphere will be at its maximum tilt away from the sun. On that day, we experience the longest night of what has felt like one of the longest years in our lifetime. 2020 has been a challenging year for many: COVID-19, racial tensions, political polarization, rioting, anger, anxiety and depression. It feels at times like the world is descending into chaos.
The days continue to get shorter, but the winter solstice is not a celebration of darkness. Instead, for many pagan cultures it is the symbolic death and rebirth of the sun. Our Christian faith understands that the sun, moon and stars were created by God and that by his word he holds every celestial body in orbit, aligned to their seasonal movements. We celebrate not simply a celestial sun that is symbolically reborn but the One who made the sun, God Almighty. This Christmas season we celebrate the only true Son, Jesus Christ, the firstborn from among the dead.
John 1:4-5 says, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” The darkness has not overcome the light. It never will. Jesus defeated the darkness and no matter how hard 2020 may have been, for followers of Christ, the light will not be overcome. We have hope. Hope for tomorrow. Hope for a new morning.
Nearly one year ago today, we were in a hospital room with our five-year-old daughter battling leukemia as doctors were pumping chemicals into her body. Erminia, vincristine, doxorubicin, and dexamethasone killed both good and bad cells, and on Christmas Day last year, she finally lost all of her hair. I understand what it’s like to experience a bit of darkness on Christmas. There have been a handful of days in 2020 where we have felt the same sense of darkness and pain.
Our experience tells us it’s part of living in a fallen world. Perhaps you’re going through a season of depression, anxiety or sadness. Perhaps there is a heaviness surrounding you, and it’s been difficult to shake. You didn’t ask for it, but it’s there. You’ve tried to make it go away, but the reality exists. It feels dark for you. When Bing Crosby starts singing about coming home for Christmas, you realize you aren’t going home. When Andy Williams croons about it being the most wonderful time of the year, the year feels less than wonderful. Instead of dreaming of a white Christmas, 2020 feels more like a blue Christmas.
What do you do when it feels more like a blue Christmas?
You remember that the light shines in the darkness. You remember that the nights will soon get shorter, the sun will soon shine brighter and that morning is coming. You remember that Jesus is the Light of the World, and he was born in Bethlehem, born of a virgin. You remember the hope we have that tomorrow will be brighter than today.
“Pardon for sin
And a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer
And to guide
Strength for today
and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside”
Amen. Great is thy faithfulness. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. Our hope is bright. I know One who shines in the darkness, and his name is Jesus. Do you know him? Allow him to come into your pain and into your struggle and provide you with a hope that the darkness cannot overcome.
Every day is a new day. Every year is a new year, and the only thing winter solstice means for those of us in Christ is that the sun will rise again. In fact, he is already risen. The weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Fall on your knees. Abide in Jesus this Christmas.
Rev. Jon Wiest is an ordained pastor in The Wesleyan Church. He is the executive director of Groundswell, a global ministry mobilizing a growing wave of disciple makers and pioneering leaders to plant hundreds and thousands of churches. For more information about Groundswell, visit its website or on Facebook.