"Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: 'God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; the Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to men.'"
— "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Darkness and dissonance
This month we encounter again the longest night of the year: December 21. The sun sets at 4:30 p.m. I am always reminded how heavy this season is for people. For many of us, it's full of moments gone because the people we love are gone. We just have to have known people for the songs to ring a little off now and then.
On Christmas Day 1863, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow — a 57-year-old widowed father of six children, one of which had been nearly paralyzed as his country fought a war against itself — wrote a poem trying to gather the dissonance in his own heart. He heard the Christmas bells that day and the singing of "peace on earth," yet he longed for peace even in his own family.
December 21 may be the longest night, but that means December 22 — it gets just a little bit brighter (.02 seconds to be exact).
By December 31: nearly four minutes. January: one hour. March: four hours.
Astronomical patterns do not console us in our grief. But the refrain still rings true: the Hebrew and Christian faiths are composed of those who do their best to accept, believe, and proclaim first there was evening, then comes morning. We are people of light.
As you sit in the darkness of this season, may you light candles against the shadows of loss and grief in any form, and do not leave too soon. We are people of light, so we can walk through the dark in confidence. May the hope of Jesus living, dying, and rising be the light of your world this season. Amen.