Symbols of hope

Yesterday was the solstice, the shortest day of the year. It hid behind the tatters of snow and the fear of more. It hid behind the focus on Christmas and the bustle to be ready. Silently, mysteriously, we have now moved back from the brink and are inexorably heading into the light, although it still feels the same, although the cold still hugs us like a friend.

The beginning of the return of the sun is also the beginning of winter. Like the yin and yang symbol where each has the other in its centre, we are not abandoned to winter, we are climbing back to the light, we are living in the rebirth of hope.

Hope is essential currency when so much of the fullness of living is shut away. We know the sun and summer will return, our hope is a solid substance that pulls us through the night. In the old days nothing was so sure – the return of the sun hung on our shoulders, our activities, our sacrifice, and our symbols of hope were the living greens that never died, the ivy and holly and their supernatural power that protected them from the long death.

We know better now about the ways of the sun and the cycles of plants. But we all still fear and face the long death. That is why Christmas nestles in its cradle of dark – not just to celebrate the gift of light but to remember the gift of God, coming to live with us when the days were bleak, sharing with us the power to outlast death.