First day of winter

Sunrise was at about 7:20 this morning and sunset will be at 4:32 p.m. The day with the shortest amount of daylight in the northern hemisphere heralds the approach of longer days, although it will be months before warmer temperatures arrive. People in the northern hemisphere celebrate Christmas in the same season as the earliest Christians, and the theme of light overcoming darkness has this seasonal touch to it. I wonder how Christians in the southern hemisphere experience the theme of darkness at Christmas time. Do they revisit the Christmas story in June when they are having their winter solstice?

Of course, we can experience darkness any time of the year. Our hearts can be heavy with grief or fear at any season. Illness, homelessness, betrayal and disappointment can come at any time. The fact of God coming in human form to live among us is one we recall every time we come together to worship, and anytime, anywhere in prayer and praise, not only at Christmas. Just as there is no season specific to our experience of darkness, there is no season when the light of Christ is not present. Some days the light of God may seem like a barely discernible ember not strong enough to offer warmth, but we are assured that it is here. We have the ability – and the responsibility – to bring together our embers (or our flames – whatever the strength of our faith today) so that we can build a strong source of light and provide warmth and care to each other.

Dear Lord, fan the spark of light that is within me so that I can share it with others who need some extra light and warmth in the darkness. Amen.

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

Trying new things

I don’t like this.” That’s what I thought when our choir director introduced a new piece of music. It was a Nigerian tune with Nigerian words, the rhythm was difficult for me to sing, and I just didn’t like it. I could feel my face tensing, my eyebrows pulling together, eyes narrowing, nostrils pinching, lips puckering. “I don’t want to sing this song,” I said to myself.

But I did sing it for the six or seven minutes that our director led us, and I sang it again for a little longer at the next rehearsal, and again that the rehearsal after that. The rhythm became more familiar and the tune was peppy. I focused on the notes and the syllables and I stopped frowning. I didn’t know the song well enough to sing it without the written music in front of me, but singing it with the choir was pleasant.

As I recalled this process of getting past my initial reluctance I was reminded of myself as a child who needed coaxing to eat her vegetables some days. I resisted for all kinds of reasons, screwing up my face and saying, “Yuck!” This new music took me right back to my five-year old self, and to an appreciation for the people in my life who have helped me to try new things. The familiar things in life may be comfortable, but unfamiliar things, people, places, and jobs can be enjoyable too. With practice and patience they too can become familiar, even loved.

As I think about trying new things I am reminded of this verse from Isaiah: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19.) In this time of year as the winter solstice approaches, with shorter hours of daylight and colder temperatures in the northeast, it can feel as if nothing new is happening, or worse – as if God is far away. I am thankful for the reassurance of scripture, music, and the people in my life.

Lord, keep my close to you, and to the people who encourage me to be open to new ideas, roles, and experiences. Amen.