Written December 14, 2016
Eight hours. That’s the difference between now and six months forward or back. We have entered the time of year when the least number of daylight hours have come upon us. It has something to do with the earth tilting toward the true north, the pole pointing upward on the compass. In June around this time the total reaches sixteen hours. These days, only eight. Where we live the sun barely peeps out, squeaking in a few minutes when it can, reluctant for more. And even when it shines, the sun remains low, as though hugging the horizon was what it was created for.
It is called the Winter Solstice. Darkness deepens this time around. Winter usually doesn’t usher snow near us, yet now sitting right there in front of us, only a few rows up, some Arctic chill casts a shadow over top of us. Darkness deepens and so also the snow. Cold and dark at once. Sol means “sun” and sistere means “stopped” or “stationary,” thanks to the Latin out from which English rose up and breathed, conquering his father. Astrologists stared at the sun and counted, observing that in summer sister sun seemed to stand still for a time, hesitant to hit the horizon and go to sleep. Winter wanted to be the same as summer, so we have solstice common to both.
Since someone probably knows the church has cherished this time of darkness, observing the theme of darkness and light generously lost then found in the Bible. In speech God creates light first among the myriad of his other creatures. Why this is first, undermining the darkness on the face of the deep waters, may very well be because God is Light. Where he lives is no darkness at all. Darkness thrives in evil. Light exalts in good. Even a speck of light causes the darkness to flee, as if in terror, as if darkness were spooked. The people who walk in darkness have seen a lot of light and walk toward it, curious to what they might see.
So the church remembers that Jesus, who in his thirties called himself Light, was born. This we remember in December, even though Jesus certainly was not born then. It’s reason to celebrate, even rejoice in, delight. Look at a face that is glad, and you will find someone for whom the light has come on, de-light (har, har).
There is also good in darkness remember. Every morning I let the chickens out of their coop. I find four, maybe five, sometimes six eggs waiting to be picked up. Inside those eggs, it is definitely dark. Crack ’em open, and into a heated cast iron frying pan and delicious seeps out. Under the snow, under the soil it is dreadfully dark. Melt the snow, raise the sun higher and away from the horizon, and the seeds bust out from the ground. Even stinging nettle can provide a nutrition far beyond anything a super food can, arising out from darkness. Even though we may walk through a valley shrouded in darkness, and grief, when a little or a lot of darkness is spotted, hope springs up. So it is coming through darkness we get stronger, as we look for the light.
Darkness and light. It is another piece on the path to being human.