The beauty of winter isn't quite like that of the other seasons. An icy stream, a window patterned with frost, the perfect serenity of a forest after a snowfall - they can reach in and touch your soul as surely as a new-opened flower or the sun on autumn leaves. But the setting is darker. Colder. Quieter. Beauty is harder to appreciate when your fingers ache and your lungs burn and night falls so very early. It's a stark and lonely time, here at the ebb-tide of the year.
I think that we humans need this. Just like the earth, the sun and moon, we have our cycles: inward and outward, rising and falling. Just now, the long nights lead us to somber reflection, and the cold winds seem to strip away our comfortable assurances like leaves from the trees. For a time, we see our darkest selves. And we begin, eventually, to wonder if the bright world we remember has gone forever.
Then the solstice comes.
Throughout history, every culture has held a Midwinter celebration of some kind. These vary in the details, of course, but at the center of them all are warmth, light, and the togetherness of family and friends - those things that seem such a natural, given part of life throughout the rest of the year, but now have become precious. We gather in jubilation to welcome the returning sun; the renewal of hope that it brings.
It has been in many ways a time for fear, for doubt, for hopelessness. But it is also a time for redemption. Tomorrow, when the sun rises, our hearts will rise with it. We will take a deep breath, let go of the darkness, and enter the cycle of light.
I wish each one of you a blessed and joyful solstice.