Long is our winter, dark is our night

As we approach the winter solstice next week, there are times during these weeks of the shortest days of the year when I think that bears have the right idea: hibernation seems an attractive solution to rising in the dark and to long winter evenings and nights. Yet we in our day have electricity that helps to stretch out the day; so much so that it is easy to be oblivious of the dark. For many the dark can be a fearful thing; I often think of the settlers of this area of the country and how long the winter nights must have been for them. Imagine a family living miles from the nearest town or the closest neighbor. They lived by candles or kerosene lamps, both dangerous for starting fires; their use was limited to just a few hours a day and only when absolutely necessary. Anyone who has been awake for several hours during the night because of illness or for some other reason knows how difficult it is to keep hope alive during those dark hours. Will daylight ever come?

Although hibernation along with our brother bear might seem a good idea to some, we would never have the opportunity to see the extraordinary beauty and brightness of a winter night sky. Also, during the darkest hours of the night it can be reassuring to know that around the world there are monks and nuns who rise from sleep to keep vigil and in doing so they keep hope alive that God is with us, even in the dark and through the night.

Every year we are certain that the days will start getting longer after December 21; as did the human family of several millennia ago we celebrate the lengthening of days, but we who believe in the Light of Christmas have an added reason to rejoice:

“Longing for light,
we wait in darkness. . .

Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!”

  (From the song: “Christ, be our light” by Bernadette Farrell)