December 2021

Winter Solstice

This is not going to be one of those warm fuzzy articles that will tell you to embrace winter. My wife was from the South and over the years she convinced me that most of what we say about the wonder of winter is just so much whistling in the dark.

Sure there is a sort of Spartan pleasure to be found in a dark and cold frosty morning when the air is fresh and clean and pure. But it helps to know that your car has a new battery and is snug and warm in the garage. The older I get the more I’m convinced that winter, like the polar bears at the zoo, is best observed from the warm side of the window.

The best image of winter for me is the big wood pile stacked behind the house. There was a time when I used to cut it myself. That way it “warms you twice” the old timers used to say. Now I am seriously considering changing over to gas logs. I still enjoy outdoor sports, but the best part of winter is a crackling fire, a pot of soup or chili, and the company of family and friends.

The church has long recognized that winter is a season for awe and wonder. Hope and belief are easy in June when the world is a garden and the wind is warm. But when the bitter north winds blow and the sun rides low in the southern sky, darkness and nothingness don’t seem so far away.

Winter keeps us honest. It holds us to our faith commitment. It’s stark realities compel us to replenish the woodpiles of our inner lives. It is not by accident that the church offers its richest feasts and celebrations at the beginning and the end of this season.

Christmas, everyone’s favorite winter event, comes on the darkest day of the year. The day was chosen to compete with a pagan festival where people celebrated the shortest day of the year with the “Feast of the Rising Sun.” Christ was the only rising Son Christians cared about and so they chose December 25 to celebrate his birth in the hope that people would forget about that other festival. And by in large it worked. We celebrate the “Light of the World” when everything around us is at its darkest.

WHK

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