Updated: Jan 28
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned Isaiah 9:2
Matthew 4:16 reminds us of the fulfillment of this prophecy in the coming of Christ. And yet we live in that great mysterious tension of what has been fulfilled and what is yet to come. And so we celebrate what we know to be true and what we long to see fulfilled year after year. And I have to believe that that longing for light to overcome the darkness will crescendo as time marches toward it’s fulfillment.
Light is so very important to us physically, emotionally and spiritually. Sunlight gives us much needed Vitamin D. It can also regulates melatonin levels and serotonin and gives most people energy and a sense of wellbeing. People who struggle with symptoms of depression that start or worsen in the autumn as the days get shorter are often diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder. A greater number of people don’t necessarily have full blown depression symptoms but suffer from “winter blues” more lethargy, craving carbohydrates, feeling blah or blue and sleepy. There is evidence that we need sunlight physically, mentally and emotionally to feel our best.
We are whole beings having an interconnected mind, body and spirit. What impacts one part impacts the whole. Our spirits also respond to the darkness, that heaviness and hopelessness that some feel during the darkest time of the year is the cry of the spirit yearning for light.
So Isaiahs prophecy and the New Testaments fulfillment is the most wonderful news for our weary spirits, It gives us great reason to celebrate the dawning of the “great light” each December.
Constantine the Great borrowed the date December 25 as Christ’s birth from Natalis Solis Invicti (The festival of the birth of the Invincible sun) a pagan holiday celebrating the winter soltice. The time of year when in the northern hemisphere the darkest day has past and the sun prevails and starts to bring back the daylight. See Stories behind the great Traditions Christmas by Ace Collins for more on this topic.
Since we don’t really know the date of Christ’s birth and it had rarely been celebrated or celebrated on alternative dates before Constantine declared December 25 to be the official universal date in the year 325, some have questioned whether that date should be the one chosen to celebrate Christ's birth. I think it is actually the perfect day. I think there are universal qualities to being human and one of those qualities is the mind/body/spirit need for light for survival. So mythology and pagan religions of course looked to the sun to worship for the life giving qualities it provides. I mean come on, isn’t there really a bigger hand at play in redeeming a pagan holiday that was named the festival of the birth of the invincible sun? Can we imagine God's cosmic sense of humor as he crosses out the word sun and replaces it with Son? Is it not part of redeeming all of creation to redeem even the festivals and celebrations, giving them their rightful purpose? CS lewis believes that all other religions are man’s seeking to understand God and Christianity itself is the fulfillment of the myths of paganism .
The sun is just a reflection, a picture of the creator. The qualities of the sun, light giver, life giver, warmth giver, the power it has to stir the earth in the death of winter to the life of spring is the very qualities of it’s invisible creator to our very whole human existence.. We groan and despair in the absence of this light. And Christmas is the “happiest season of all” because of the hope it provides, of the turning of the tide, of light penetrating the darkness, and things being restored to how they were meant to be. We often try to put symbols of meaning to what we know but can’t express. That awe we feel at the setting and the rising of the sun is spirit-speak. The longing we feel and the hope we feel at Christmas is spirit-speak as well. And the light, the lights on the trees, the lights of the candles, and that star, these symbols are important universal elements that speak to our spirit of hope and celebration. They are tangible expressions of an invisible but very real presence that resides with us now represented in their glow and twinkling and will return to us again in full bright glory one day.
Because this heaviness and darkness is very real, it can be very debilitating physically, mentally and emotionally. I would recommend that anyone feeling overwhelming saddness or who is struggling to cope with everyday activities, who may be pulling away from others, who may not be sleeping well or sleeping excessively or those who have suicidal thoughts to reach out for help. There is treatment available. The suicide hotline is available 24/7 for help and resources 800-273-8255. Also your doctor, local church or mental health treatment center can also offer you resources and guidance.
This post has been part of the Five Minute Writing community writing challenge. Even though I must confess, it’s not Friday and took me more than 5 minutes, I really wanted to reflect on this prompt “announce” over the weekend as a Christmas message of hope to any who read it.