Faith Walk: It’s always darkest before the holidays

When the days began to get shorter, I missed sitting on the porch after the evening meal. This coming of winter led me to a computer search on what the solstice, which was last Sunday, meant through history.

Humans for centuries have celebrated the coming of longer days, from Stonehenge in England and Newgrange in Ireland. The Egyptians built pyramids to align with the rising of the sun on the day it began to be seen a few minutes longer.

Light was seen as a gift of the gods, or in the case of the Israelites, of the one God.

The Ark of the Covenant led the way for the wandering people of Israel. God made sure they saw it constantly. The book of Exodus says, “The Lord was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.”

There are many light-inspired things we celebrate as the calendar year draws to a close. The Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah, remembers the miracle of the oil in the Temple that burned for eight nights when there was only a single day’s supply.

We celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ at Christmastime in the dark of the year. He is called the Light of the World. We rejoice that he brings the light of truth and love. He came to give good news to prisoners and to the poor.

In these days of diminished sun, we light the Menorah, the Advent Wreath Candles, the Country Club Plaza lights, Christmas trees. We seem to put candles, both real and electric, everywhere.

The shortened days of winter can be dark days or bright ones to me. I recall the holidays spent with so many loved ones who are now gone. And I fondly remember the days when our children were small, and Christmas was a magic time when they sang “Happy Birthday” to baby Jesus and blew out the candles on a cake.

I remember parents and grandparents whose faith led them to persevere through their own dark days. In my life today, it means a day of celebrated new life, a day when I can rejoice that memories are with me, that any dark days will pass, and my faith in a brighter future will lead me into the light of love of family and friends.

Over and over I love to pray with the words of Isaiah: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. … A child is born to us, a son is given to us. … His dominion is vast and forever peaceful.”

Mary Connaghan Danaher, one of The Star’s Faith Walk writers, can be reached at