Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Sermon: "The Son, the Moon, and Shooting Stars", Christmas Eve Reflection (December 24, 2018)



This past Friday was the winter solstice in the northern part of the world. In case you’re a little bit foggy on what that means, I’ll explain quickly: in science terms, it’s the point at which the Earth’s axis is tilted as far away from the sun as it will be all year. In more practical terms, it’s the day of the year when we get the least amount of sunlight. It’s the shortest day and the longest night. Although this might seem to primarily be the concern of astronomers and other scientists, this phenomenon has been observed unscientifically for millennia; in fact, the festive term “Yuletide” comes from the name of the ancient pagan rituals surrounding the winter solstice.

As you might imagine, shorter days have made life difficult for human beings throughout history. For ancient people, shorter days meant less daylight to do the things required for survival, like hunting or farming, and more darkness meant more cover for predators and enemies. It meant hunkering down and keeping warm, focusing primarily on just making it through the winter. In short, the closer it was to the winter solstice, the more dangerous life became.

In more modern times, we don’t rely on the sun to provide all of our light or heat, but the solstice still impacts us. Many people today are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, where depression symptoms are tied to the shortening of the days. Others find their sleeping patterns disrupted, and their ability to function decreased as a consequence. One article I found even claimed that the winter solstice can mess with our hormones, give us headaches, and put extra stress on our hearts.[1]

A lack of sunlight takes its toll on every human being. We can understand that. It’s what makes winter so difficult in spite of all our modern advances and technologies. And yet, this winter solstice was different than most others. This weekend, when we were all making our final Christmas preparations, there was a full moon. I wonder how many of us noticed; I absolutely wouldn’t have if I hadn’t read about it. Friday was still the shortest day of the year, it didn’t change anything about seasonal depression or enemies hiding in the darkness—but the moon was there, fully visible, shining brightly and boldly the middle of the night, proclaiming that the darkness does NOT have the final word and that it will NOT last forever.

On this day, a child is born. His birth is important, because he brings light to the world, to all people. The darkness isn’t yet banished because we still sin, choosing to turn from God in spite of ourselves. But the birth is a promise. The promise is that the light will ALWAYS shine brightly and boldly in the darkness, and the darkness WILL NOT OVERCOME IT. Ever. No matter how many times the darkness returns, no matter what form it takes—fear, insecurity, anger, conflict, hate—we can look to the light and remember the promise. Just as the rainbow reminds us of God’s covenant with Noah, may we now also look upon the moon and remember this promise in Christ.

One other thing. On the winter solstice this year, not only was there a full moon…but there was also a meteor shower. A celestial celebration, exploding upon the canvas of the longest night. Perhaps this is just the kind of heavenly display that summoned the Magi from their homes over 2000 years ago, an ethereal dance proclaiming the birth of an infant king. Tonight, as we go forth back into the darkness, we would do well to follow the example shown by the skies of a few nights ago and the magi of many centuries ago: let us, too, celebrate and proclaim the light that has been given to us, meeting us where we are in the darkness. Let us, too, be called forth from places of comfort into the unknown so that we might learn more about this curious, persistent light that draws us in. Let us, too, share this good news, so that it might spread, and spread, and spread, until all of us have forgotten what the darkness feels like. Joy to the world; the Lord is come! Amen.


[1] https://www.elitedaily.com/p/how-does-the-winter-solstice-affect-us-7-things-that-could-happen-to-your-body-7635804.

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