The Shortest Day of the Year

December 20, 2019 by Gregg DeMey

This Saturday, December 21st, will be the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. As the sunlight hours wane in November and December, I feel a similar movement in my bones: energy, patience, and pep diminish with the daylight.

Because of this, as I’ve written before, I’ve become fascinated with nature’s coping strategies for this time of year. Recently, I’ve been contemplating the Wood Frog. This frog’s blood turns viscous and thick within her veins in late fall and then freezes altogether when the winds of winter blow. The Wood Frog takes a seasonal timeout until the warmer days of March and April come around to resurrect her from a long winter’s nap. I imagine her thinking, “I don’t feel much like myself today” in November and then lying down in hopes of feeling better. Her wish comes true with the thaw of spring, but at a cost: she misses an entire season of life while in her hibernation.

God hasn’t given human beings the option — or the biology — to check out during the dark seasons of life. God has instead equipped us with the ability to wait, persevere, and remain watchful for signs of life.

Here’s one meteorological glimmer of hope that I cling to in December: Even though December 21st is the shortest day of the year, the time of sunset has actually been getting slightly later since December 12th! How does this work? I don’t know! It seems that later sunrises more than compensate for later sunsets for a brief while. I find it hopeful that even BEFORE the shortest day, sunsets begin happening later and later and will continue to grow until the end of June 2020. Let there be light!

In spiritual and emotional realms, similar dynamics are at work. It could be that while our troubles continue compressing and closing in, God begins to extend the light that will one day fill the darkness. Oh, that we had eyes to see and instruments to measure those signs!

Among the people who understand this truth are the men of Angola State Penitentiary, many of whom have received life sentences for their crimes and offenses. One inmate pastor once off-handedly mentioned that it took the first twelve years of his sentence to reach a basic level of acceptance that he would never leave Angola. Twelve years before he shook the dream of the Wood Frog, that one day he would wake and it would be all over. The Christians in Angola have to learn the art of waiting, persevering, and remaining watchful for signs of life.

This Sunday at Elmhurst CRC, we’ll have the opportunity to worship with the men of Angola Prison via video link. My hope is that the songs, smiles, prayers, and “Amen!’s” that we share will be used by God to empower all us faithful, broken people to walk with God even on the shortest day of the year. I hope to see you there!

God’s bright blessings to you and yours amid these dark days,
Pastor Gregg

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