Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere have the unique pleasure of celebrating Advent and Christmas right at the beginning of winter. Today, just a few days before Christmas, we observe the shortest day and the longest night. The solstice brings us more darkness than we will see any other day this year, and for the season of advent, that is fitting.
One of the lectionary passages for this season is Psalm 80 in which the psalmist interprets the suffering of Israel as the wrath of God and says:
"O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people's prayers? You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure. You make us the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves."
Clearly the people of Israel, at the writing of this Psalm, were going through an extremely dark night.
Likewise at the Birth of Jesus the people were also experiencing a dark night. Roman military occupation and economic oppression left the people yearning for hope, for redemption. We hear this in another common lectionary passage from Luke 1 where Mary declares in hope that through her son, "[God] has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty." Those are the words of someone who has traversed a dark night of suffering and oppression.
And here we are today, on the longest night of the year, looking forward to Christmas, and many of us may not only be experiencing the physical darkness of the start of winter but the emotional, spiritual, or material darknesses of loss, pain, and suffering.
Christmas stands as a hope that the dawn that is about to appear will break through the darkness and reshape our horizons. The darkest nights often bring about the brightest and most miraculous dawns. Our hope is that you experience that this Christmas.
-Rev. Dr. Blake Hart