Darkest Before the Dawn
Updated: Dec 16, 2022
Or at least at Christmas. The Winter Solstice falls a mere four days before Christmas. For one day, sunlight in northeastern America lasts for a mere nine hours. Night hesitates to leave and rushes to return. For someone with a melancholy personality like mine, this is one of the most difficult days, perhaps besides New Year's. The night seems to have won over the light. The cold pierces through every layer of clothing directly, aiming directly for the soul. Always winter.
For the 2017 year, Advent feels more like the Winter Solstice than Christmas. Marathons of childhood favorite films, 24/7 musical classics, and inappropriate amounts of hot chocolate can't drive away the feeling of always winter, but never Christmas. It seems the cold night is here to stay, settled in for the long haul. What happened to an innocent childhood, excited by a simple holiday melody, the flashing lights on the Christmas tree, and the piles of wrapping left at the end of another Christmas?
It's easy to feel guilty. After all, Christmas is a time to be happy. You like a Hallmark movie, not because it's good, but it gives that Christmasy feeling. You are excited by the song on the radio, not because you like it, but because it's part of the season's fabric. You can't wait to see family, even the ones you don't like so much. It's Christmas! You're supposed to feel happy, as if you were a child again. But for me, it feels always winter.
And that's more along the lines of what Christmas always was. Christmas was never meant to be happy and simple. It's always winter. Christmas is a baby, born in an unsanitary stable because his parents are homeless. It's a baby laid in a manger, filled with coarse hay and cow droppings. There is nothing beautiful about this setting. Mary might have actually felt like Emma Stone in an SNL skit: "I’m sorry, I guess when I found out that I was going to give birth to the Savior, I just assumed it was going to be … nicer. There would be a real bed, and, I don’t know, a doctor. And no sheep poop on the floor.” It's the story of taxes and politics dragging families away from their homes to give up more of themselves to empire. It's a paranoid king, ready to slaughter the innocents over the whispers of a new king.
It's there that Christmas happens. Christmas is always winter. In the cold dark filth of oppression, injustice, and hopelessness, a child has been born to you. A child for people like you and me. People used to the long, cold night of the Winter Solstice. God wrapped up in human flesh. For you. Tidings of comfort and joy. As the carol hums: "Then rang the bells more loud and deep. God is not dead, nor does he sleep. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail With peace on earth, good will to men."
For those of us who don't feel much like Christmas. For the long dark nights of the Winter Solstice. For always winter. "A child has been born to you."