The beautiful irony of solstice

by Pastor Bob Wiegers

I feel at home here in the North, but I grew up about as far south as we could get, in sunny South Florida. In my formative years I never really thought much about light and dark, but up here, between the 42nd and 43rd parallels, I can’t escape it. Summer brings abundant light, but as one songwriter put it, winter pays for summer.

Today marks the 5th winter solstice I’ve experienced while living in New England, and I can better sympathize with those who mark it as a religious celebration. Yes, the Fall is beautiful and crisp and cool, but the darkness creeps in, slowly, unrelentingly, a few minutes more per day. When I had my corporate job, going to work in the dark, and returning home in the dark, it was especially noticeable, and dare I say, depressing. Just as slowly as the sun steps away, an unnoticed sadness creeps in. Sure, having a clinical diagnosis and accompanying treatment helps keep some of the darkness at bay, but not completely.

So solstice has her beautiful irony. Here we are in the “deep mid winter,” the darkest day of the year, and often one of the coldest, but there’s a glimmer of hope. Today is the deepest passage through this year’s valley, but tomorrow marks a step uphill for the first time in a while. Be it from spiritual struggle, crushing circumstances, lack of light, chemical imbalance, absence of healthy habits, or (most often) some combination of it all, I am no longer surprised by the darkness that presses in on the light. This too is a season, but it need not prevail.

How dark was the tomb that sealed up the lifeless Lord of light? Yet it could not contain him for long, because God is the God of life, death, and resurrection. His presence, power, and peace are with me in all seasons, because I follow the one who is the light of the whole world. I may experience darkness pressing in, but, as Jesus said, as I keep on following him, I will not walk in the darkness, but have the light of life.