"Only three more months to the solstice!" I say. "We can make it!" My husband thinks I'm crazy, as does anyone with earshot (this conversation sometimes occurs in public). But then I add: "And then the days start getting longer again!"
Here in the Pacific Northwest, where our winter days are so very short, and the winters chilly, grey, and wet, we do love our sunlight. And a few more minutes of daylight each day is good news indeed. If I can keep my good cheer up until the solstice, it gets easier every day after that.
The winter solstice happens just a few days before Christmas, and then the days begin to get longer and baby Jesus makes his entrance and New Year's Day signals the renewal of all our hopes, dreams, goals, and plans and eventually we can drive to work in the light and come home in the light and the sunlight stretches itself into spring and we go see the tulips up north and the melting snow cascading over Snoqualmie Falls to the east and then we teachers pack up our classrooms for the year and it is summer--glorious summer!
I am an optimist at heart. My optimism begins as soon as the days give evidence of growing shorter and it continues until it is no longer needed. Light is the symbol and substance of my hope.
Recently, I was asked to compose a written piece to accompany one of the scripture passages for the Christmas Lessons and Carols Concert performed by the choirs of Bellevue Christian School. I wrote in response to John 1:1-15, which reads (in the NIV) as follows:
You could be time
time that flies in joy or urgency
drags in grief and anticipation
time that marks our planting and our harvesting
our killing and our healing, our silence and our speaking
time measured by bells and whistles and alarms
time that measures our days and
marches us inexorably to our deaths
time that bends, stretches, and contracts
according to our speed, our destination, our location
inconstant, limited, limiting time.
But you are not time.
You could be matter
matter that gathers, grows, decays
disintegrates, re-integrates, shape-shifts
moves, changes, destroys, is destroyed
matter that ages and betrays itself
matter, our very flesh,
not willing even when the spirit is willing
fickle, mutable matter.
But you are not merely matter.
You could be space
space so vast, expanding
space that seems limitless
dark, cold, impersonal, empty
space that once was not but now is
that one day will contract and swallow itself
and us with it
space that will cease to be
You cannot be space.
You call yourself Light
You have come into our world as light
our everlasting light
Light the first gift in creation
to the heavens and the earth
Light by which all living things have their existence
In which all needy humans find life
light warms, illuminates, reveals deep and hidden things
nurtures the awakening of spring and the flowering of summer
the fullness of harvest
light sweeps away darkness and reveals our lost coins
the near-constant in our universe
by which speed and time are measured
light returns every morning, the sign
of your constancy, your faithfulness
light guides our feet on the path
the way, the truth, and the life
we who dwell in darkness have seen your great light
our armor, our knowledge, the gospel of the glory of Christ
revelation to the nations and glory to your people Israel
your glory in the New Jerusalem
You are light
And that light is life.