Tomorrow will mark the longest night of the year, with only 8 hours, 11 minutes and 3 seconds of daylight — that’s a lot of darkness. We know all about the cold and darkness of winter, in our own lives, in the events of the world –so much anger, fear and hurt; so much despair and grief.
But tomorrow is also the turning point of the year, the solstice, and even though we are entering the fullness of winter, the days will begin, slowly, to lengthen – more and more sun every day. By Christmas day we will have gained 50 seconds more daylight – not a lot, but enough, perhaps, to brighten our spirits.
Perhaps this is a realistic metaphor for the birth of Christ – not the full-on grandeur of a summer’s day, but a glimmer of light, shining small and bright; not an immediate, 100% change, but more of a 51/49 reality… which is, nevertheless, enough for us to proclaim “What has come into being in Christ was Life, and the Life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
With this Christmas hope in our hearts, maybe we can find the courage and the faith to light one candle that will illuminate one corner of the night; not thinking that we can change everything, but trusting that what we do will make a difference. We can act, do our part, believing that our efforts are gathered up by a Spirit, by a Love that, ultimately, is invincible – that eventually will light up the world.
Perhaps this Christmas we can join with Howard Thurman, African-American theologian, who with determination and hope, declares:
I will light Candles this Christmas,
Candles of joy despite all the sadness,
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch,
Candles of courage for fears ever present,
Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days,
Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,
Candles of love to inspire all my living,
Candles that will burn all year long.