These days of the final darkness I call the gauntlet. Days where loss takes hold of my soul like a wrestler having me in a Full Nelson. An anniversary of pain and the waning days of darkness. The dreaded business of the season is made brighter by the Advent and Christmas decorations and lights. People of goodwill are cheerful and thinking of others more than themselves. What I look forward to most is the point at which the days begin to lengthen. Thursday, December 21, 2017 at 10:28 am CST marks winter solstice and then the hold is broken on darkness and we begin to move toward light.
We are not sure why why December 25 was chosen as the birthday of Jesus; it nonetheless became a date of celebration for his birth. December 25 was the date when Romans marked as the winter solstice. Early on in the Church Jesus was identified with the Sun based on prophesies of the Old Testament. The Messiah – the light that enlightens us. December 25 is nine months after the crucifixion – a pregnant thought. Time itself is wrapped up for us in birth and death. A stark reminder of that became clear two years ago. More than time, salvation, is bound up in birth and death – cross and resurrection. Early Christians chose to overcome the pagan Roman festivals with the New Covenant. The pagan replaced with a new pristine festival of the light shattering the darkness like the sun piercing our days in the heart of mid-west winter.
I run the gauntlet of work too. The various festivities of December punctuated with egg nog and congregational events. When the twenty-fifth rolls around the clamor quiets, the last end-of-the-year stewardship appeal goes out, and I count the successes and failures of the year. Then I ask if there is one more in me. I’m always refreshed as I make one more pass through the Christmas cards and notes that I received. I wish I had it in me to still write my Christmas letter and tell of all the exploits of the year. Alas, I have not been able to bring myself to restart that tradition. Perhaps next year when the last of the turkey and dressing is put away, I will sit and write of the exploits of 2018 – Lord willing. I’ll reminisce and make it a thank you note to all who have thought of me and prayed for me and loved me through another year.
Being a pastor seems a bit like the prophets of old. We get cranky and weird over time. I would not have chosen this life. It was a call – a necessity – unavoidable. I could not pretend otherwise. Who would willingly give up all their weekends? God called me – calls me. It is obedience and love that keeps me going. So I will run the gauntlet and ask you to pray for me once again. And you will and I will feel it deep in the well of my soul.