Here, in the northern hemisphere, it is the shortest day in the year. Throughout the winter, because of the earth’s tilt on its axis, the sun is not visible in the sky overhead for as long each day. Shorter days equals colder weather. Theoretically.
On this shortest of the short days in this year, the wind is blowing a gale out of the south. Rain, says the weatherman. Tornadoes, others whisper ominously. Listening, some will be afraid. I shrug my shoulders. What may come, may come.
Or, it may not.
In my experience, mostly they don’t come. Worry won’t change the odds, either way.
Funny. It’s not the big things, the disasters, that cause me the most problems.
Shadows. I worry about shadows.
I remember watching the shadows as a skinny little urchin under the heat of the South Texas sun. Early in the morning, we rushed to beat the daylight to the fishing hole, trusty Zebco rod and reels slung over our shoulders. We hoped to be fishing before our shadows could be cast across the feeding place of the perch we sought. No doubt it was childish imagination, but we were positive the shadow would spook the fish, guaranteeing a morning devoid of the victorious shouts echoing along the banks: I got one!
Then again, in the evening as we ambled toward home down the long avenue, our shadows would stretch for yards, as the sun dropped down to the western horizon. Shadows meant the day was over. That could only lead to one thing. We were never ready to go to bed. Never.
Ah, but in the middle of those wonderful, carefree days? No shadow was cast by the sun at all. High above us, the brilliant yellow sun was all light. We moved, unencumbered with the dark appendage following or leading.
In the middle of such a day, who would worry about the coming night? It (and its shadows) were endless hours away.
But the skinny urchin is an old man now, living many miles north of that childhood home. In winter, the shadows are long during all of the daylight hours. All of them.
Just last weekend, as I lazed in the sunlight, I glanced over at my backyard companions. It was midday, yet the shadows cast by my canine buddies lying nearby stretched toward the north, looking for all the world like the going-home-shadow of the westering sun on the backs of those boys, all those years ago.
Somehow though, the shadows I dread in winter aren’t only those springing from the southern-fleeing sun. There are other shadows, not explained by scientists or weather maps, that gather thick as the year ebbs.
Imagined or not, the shadows creep, as the nights grow longer, deep into the soul. Whispering at first, they warn of impending loss and sorrow. Soon the shadows are all we see; their threatening voices fill our hearing with raspy, wailing torment.
Why is it, do you suppose, the Church fathers chose December, the month of shadows, for the celebration of the coming of brilliant Light to all the world? It is not likely that we celebrate the event at the time of year it actually happened. And, it really doesn’t alter the reality of the marvelous story.
Still, I wonder—why this month?
Oh, but what a contrast! Night and Day!
The shepherds felt the contrast. We’ve heard it so many times, we don’t really think about it. In the dead of the night, every shadow fled from the field in which they lay. (Luke 2: 8-12)
The glory of the Lord shone round about them?
Sounds like the shadows were nowhere to be found. As with the South Texas midday sun, the light blazed. Absolutely blazed.
Uh. They were afraid. Really afraid. I think that’s what sore afraid means. Maybe even really, really afraid.
And the angels told them they had nothing to fear. Nothing. This kind of thing—this blazing light at midnight—was about to be the norm. The Baby, the one they would find lying in a manger, had come to bring light. To all people, He would bring the noonday sun into their midnight darkness.
To all people
The light has shined in the darkness. It will never be truly dark again. (John 1:5)
And the shadows? Well, they’re just—just—shadows. No substance, only threats. With the coming of Light, they slip away, as if they never really were there.
Light trumps darkness every time.
Even in the short, gloomy days of winter. Maybe, especially then.
Worship Christ, the newborn King.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
(2 Corinthians 4:6 ~ NIV)
She bore to men a Savior, when half-spent was the night.
(from Lo How a Rose, E’er Blooming ~ German carol ~ ca. 15th Century)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.