Tonight is the winter solstice, literally meaning “still sun”; it is the turning point during the year when we move from lengthening dark to lengthening light. Originally, December 25 coincided with the winter solstice, but an error in the old Roman Julian calendar resulted in slippage by the 16th century, when Pope Gregory instituted our current calendar. Correcting one problem created another, however, as the solstice now came three days before Christmas Day. According to anthropologist, psychotherapist and theologian, Alexander Shaia, the church wrestled with whether to move Christmas in the Gregorian calendar to this night, opting instead to retain the gap. The primary reason they retained it was because they recognized the wonderful symbolism of three days, delighting in the fact that it isn’t until December 25 that the naked eye can perceive light breaking through the darkness earlier than the preceding days. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.
Last Sunday, many of us gathered for an Advent pageant of lessons and carols that retell our story, the love story between God and all of creation, beginning with the big bang and continuing in every unfolding moment since – including this one. The One who creates us yearns for us to share in the divine dance of peace, love and joy. Indeed, that yearning lives deep inside each and every one of us.
Sadly, all too often we humans can be blind to this beautiful reality. Easily distracted by power, possessions and privilege, we suffer and cause suffering. Again and again, God calls us back to this foundational relationship—neither forcing our response nor giving up on us. We recalled those who have gone before us, trusting in this God of love, this dance of love, not knowing where that trust might lead. These stories of Abraham and Sarah, of Joseph and of Moses in Egypt, of the shepherd boy who became King David and of Mary, the God-bearer, show us the way of life and may help us to understand our own stories in the midst of this journey.
Ultimately, Mary’s ‘yes’ leads to her ability to see with God’s eyes, the eyes of love, the way in which God’s view turns our expectations upside down. King David’s descendent, Jesus, the one born in the stable at Christmas, is indeed king of kings and lord of lords. But he isn’t a king like any other, nor is his kingdom like any other. This kingdom doesn’t glitter with gold nor parade about with displays of power. Rather, God’s kingdom is found in those who trust God’s love and choose to follow in this way. God reveals that the true king isn’t about wielding power over us at all but is always and forever God-with-us, “Emmanuel.”
In these last days of Advent, having heard once again the story of God with us, we are called each day to trust God with our own lives, even in times of deepening darkness. And we are moved to pray for the world God loves and for whom he pours himself out in an unending incarnation. May we awaken to the God of love shimmering and shining in and through our stories of struggle. May we be people of trust, embodying love in all that we are and all that we do. And may the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing, that we may consent, experience and make manifest God’s kingdom here and now.