I’ve just spent a half hour trying to explain the concept of the winter solstice to the Maiden, and have not been especially successful. Where is my astrophysics-majoring mom when I need her?
But all this puzzling over the coming and going of the sun has made one thing clear. The ebb and flow of light and dark that we see in nature is a macrocosm of what we experience in our own lives, isn’t it?
This was all a lot more apparent when we lived in Alaska. Because we were in the Anchorage area (toward the south), we didn’t experience that 24-hour darkness, but the sun rose after 10 and set before 4. Living in a valley as we did, we got additional darkness while the mountains still cast their shadow. But when the solstice passed, we’d gain double the number of minutes of daylight each day compared with more southern latitudes–something to notice and celebrate.
The holidays are often a difficult time for many. Memories of loss, stress of current expectations, and family tensions are all exacerbated in a big conglomeration of tinsel and holly.
The presence of the winter solstice right before Christmas sends us a very visible message of hope: the dark is temporary. Darkness, sadness, and pain don’t last forever in nature; eventually they give way to light, brightness, warmth. And if the darkness comes again, that’s okay, because we know that with the passage of time, the cycle of light will return.
Or, as the psalmist wrote, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Ps. 30:5)