Past the Solstice

Today we have one more minute of daylight than yesterday, and tomorrow one more minute than today, and so on right up until the summer solstice in June. I watched the sun set on December 22nd, the shortest day of the year, and rose on the 23rd just in time to see the sun rise again, bringing fresh hope even as the winter settles in. Hopkins poem takes on new meaning:

And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

We’re still in the Christmas season now, which goes until Jan 5th. A good excuse not to throw out my gorgeous Scottish pine, which is looking as fresh as ever! But after the 5th I will give in to Daniela’s pointed stares and take the tree up to Crane’s beach in Ipswich, to be used to prevent the dunes from eroding. If you’re ever in Ipswich, please do visit Crane’s beach, which is one of the most gorgeous beaches in New England, and includes hikes through the dunes and nature trails. And say hello to my tree if you see it.Advent is over — the season that means “coming” — and Epiphany will begin on the sixth. The term epiphany means “to show” or “to make known” or even “to reveal.” It is meant to remember the coming of the wise men bringing gifts to visit the Christ child, who by so doing “reveal” Jesus to the world as Lord and King. It is also a time to think about our own role in revealing Christ to the world.

Part of me wants to stay in Christmas. Christ as a baby, me as a kid even at 32, opening presents in my pajama’s at my parents’ home in New Hampshire. But as my dad pointed out in his Christmas Eve sermon, Christ’s birth was just the beginning. It’s a terrible and wonderful time we’re living in, between the two advents of Christ. There is much suffering in this life, as the old hymns acknowledge:

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow.
I don’t think it’s an accident that the Christmas season is only 12 days long, compared to the month or more of Advent and Epiphany. Before and after this great act of Heaven is much waiting. We are in a second Advent now, waiting for the second coming of our Lord. And not just waiting. This is not the age to sit and gaze at a cozy manger scene. There is much to be done.

But for now, there are eleven more days of Christmas. The tree will stay, I will even continue to play Christmas songs on mySpace. The shepherds are here now, but not yet the Magi. Let us pause to adore the Christ Child at this his first Coming.

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