Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. – Isaiah 52:9
The wilderness and solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. -Isaiah 35:1
In the winter, such as it is where I live, things die. They freeze over and are gradually stomped into mud. There’s not enough snow to pretty up the process of decomposition, the downside of the plant cycle, Circle of Life, whatever. It’s just drippy and cloudy and even the occasional ray of sunshine is cold and taciturn. It’s a deep-down wet bone-chilling cold that doesn’t even have the gumption to be really cold. It just hangs around until April, a persistent hacking cough when you’re trying to sleep.
There’s some winter, such as it is, in my life right now. Just persistent, niggling problems that I try to endure or overcome as the situation calls for. I try and I try and I try– to be better, to do better, to just get through the issue– but there it is again. Not done. Not overcome. Still failing. Richard Beck describes a kind of Christian who always has a “winter” kind of faith, but that’s not me. This is just a season of my life, and while I know it will pass, it’s just muddy and chilly and dark and gross (metaphorically speaking).
The great thing about winter is Christmas. Twinkle lights and presents, family and carols and yaaaaaay! Right? Right as the yuckiest part of the year officially begins, we have a big party to tide us through til Spring. And yeah, there’s debt and materialism and STRESS, and yeah, Christ likely wasn’t born in the winter at all, but so what? As the dark of the year comes upon us, we celebrate the light.
And the great thing about my personal, metaphorical winter is Christ. As I struggle, Christ can be my evergreen tree. When I feel frozen over or stomped into mud, Christ is the promise that life continues, that spring returns, that new growth comes after (or through, or because of) the dark seasons. I typically think of winter as a time for the earth to rest, and while this isn’t exactly a time for my soul to rest, it is a time for me to re-focus and re-center on what really matters. On good days, including but not limited to Dec 25th, the barren wasteland of my heart becomes fertile ground for Christ’s tree. And that is why I celebrate Christmas in winter, even though he wasn’t born then, even though the date has roots in pagan worship, even though that date is currently saturated in materialism. I celebrate the birth of Christ in winter because (cultural conformity aside) in the winter of my heart, Christ gives me cause to celebrate.