Last night was the longest night (and shortest day) of the year… the winter solstice. From this moment the days lengthen until the summer solstice when the longest day of the year and consequently the shortest night occurs.
Events of late seem to make the dark darker and the light dimmer. On Saturday afternoon two police officers sitting in their car were slain by a man who then killed himself. This latest tragedy caps months of unrest in our land. I am unsure that I remember a time when there has been more division and less common feeling. I feel and share the frustration of many around these sad events that continue to unfold. When we are reduced to arguing about whose lives matter more we are indeed living in a long night.
On Friday, my best friend’s mother died rather unexpectedly although she had been ill for some time. For him the longest night was darkened by this personal loss. And my own sense of grief is deepened by sharing in his.
Several times I have awakened in the early morning and could not return to sleep. The creeping hours before dawn finally arrives. The interminable night that finally yields to day. We are living in a kind of longest night. My faith says we are waiting for a Second Advent – not only the return of Christ but also the return of Paradise. One day the darkness will yield to light. The long night of sin and pain and grief will give way to morning eternal.
But not yet. Advent reminds us that we live in the long night before the dawn. That we must wait. That morning will come even if it seems to be so distant as to be unreal. That we have been promised and we hold fast to what has been said.
Nothing we do can hasten the dawn. It will come when it is time. But we can light our night until day comes. We can wait knowing the day will dawn however complete the darkness.
In The Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers film, Sam (Frodo’s companion) sums it up well:
‘It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered, full of darkness and danger they were. Sometimes you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when there’s so much bad that had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing, this shadow; even darkness must pass.’
This long night too shall pass and the end will be happy. But not yet.