The winter Solstice occurred today. It is that magical moment when the earth spins slowly from autumn into winter and the shortest day of the year gives way to the longest night. It’s one of my favorite days of December. A month full of magical days, it stands out as nature makes its big shift to the next season. A few days later Christmas happens. There was a time when I believed that the angels surely heard all of our prayers at such a magical time.
When I was young, I adored December. I recall breathlessly leaving church after midnight mass, joyous Christmas hymns still ringing in my ears, running into a dark, clear, brilliant cold and a sky with a million stars overhead. It was easy to believe in something greater than ourselves. But that innocent faith has been tested time and again. One December I lost my dad. Two Decembers we had a child in the hospital. One December I was sick myself. But one December I bore a beautiful child. One December we celebrated in our new home. Two Decembers we frolicked in the mountain snow. Many Decembers were simple and joyous, that childlike anticipation of things unseen, wish lists fulfilled and gifts for all. Some Decembers were scary.
I still love December. It has always been for me a month of light and song. Of birthdays and holidays and peace on earth. There actually seems to be a Christmas spirit. People “adopt” families so that they might also have a great Christmas. They give toys and food to the various drives. They donate money. All of which is glorious but sadly only once a year. People also spend too much money on meaningless stuff, stress over gifts and parties, eat and drink too much. It is a time of excess as is never seen any other month. It is a month of contradictions. It is the month that gives hope to those who have had a bad year that the end is in sight and a new beginning on the horizon. It can be the loneliest month of all for many.
Sadly, this December there is not peace on earth. Indeed peace seems like an elusive shooting star. This December holds a lot of fear and mistrust in our communities and in our world. Violence and hate are at an all time high. We all look over our shoulders suspiciously at those dressed differently or worshiping in a different way. There is so much fear of the unknown and very little faith in what can be. The drumbeat of war seems closer and closer.
And still the earth continues it’s natural journey despite the deeds of humans. The word Solstice dates back to Middle English with Latin roots and loosely translates as “sun standing still”. If it were possible to wish upon that brilliant star in the east I would wish that the epic shift that happens in nature during the Solstice could happen in the hearts and minds of people the world over. That for the briefest moment we would all stand still as the sun’s rays burst over the horizon and illuminated us all as one. Maybe that would be the best Christmas gift of all. Maybe that’s the greatest wish. Peace on earth. Blessed be.