I had very little appreciation for the summer and winter solstices until I lived in Alaska. As we all know, the earth makes one revolution around the sun every 365 days. Due to the tilt of the earth on its axis, the northern hemisphere is closest to the sun during the summer, and furthest during the winter. The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year and the longest night. It marks the transition to lengthening days and shorter nights.
The winter solstice always occurs close to our celebration of Christmas, which helps us appreciate in more ways than one how the Incarnation — the birth of Jesus, the Son of God — is “the dawn from on high” that breaks upon us. (Luke 1:78)
As we celebrate the birth of the Savior this year, I invite us to reflect upon how we need his light in our world, and in our lives.
The struggle between light and darkness, good and evil, right and wrong, holiness and sin is at work within each of us, as well as in the world at large. The birth of Jesus is God’s response to this reality. The Incarnation is the greatest event in world history! When we are tempted to give more attention to the darkness than the light, we need to remember the words of St. John: “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)
The Book of Genesis tells the story of the birth of all creation, which springs forth from God, whose love cannot be contained. The love and life of God is always overflowing, giving expression to new life. The Book of Exodus teaches how God’s loving desire toward us became concrete through the establishment of a covenant. The commandments express what is required of us in our relationship with God.
Over the course of salvation history, the human family demonstrated our fidelity and infidelity to the covenant, and our need for a savior. God’s loving initiative toward the human family culminates in the Incarnation. The “Yes” of Mary, the power of the Holy Spirit at the Annunciation, and the birth of Jesus are powerful witnesses to the never-ending love of God.
In his earthly ministry, Jesus manifested in the flesh God’s love and mercy amid human sin and suffering. His teaching summarized the commandments into the dual commandment to love God and neighbor. Through his greatest demonstration of love, his death on the cross, Jesus established the new and eternal covenant in which light conquers the darkness once and for all.
As we are drawn this month to the glow of Christmas lights, may they remind us of our first and deepest attraction, which is to God through the infant Jesus. St. Paul encourages us in his Letter to the Ephesians to “Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.” (Ephesians 5:8-9)
May the light of Christ attract you once again during this Christmas season, and may his light shining through you be an attractive witness of faith, leading others to come to know and believe in Jesus Christ.