Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Rev. Dr. Jo Hudson
Now a discussion arose among the disciples of John the Baptist. They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.’ For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3.25-35
Tonight marks the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and the longest night of our year. It was Julius Caesar who established December 25 as the date of the solstice celebration for the people of Rome. Much later the Christian Church would lay claim to December 25 as the day on which Jesus Christ was born. Over the years there has been much debate as to why December 25 was chosen. Some believed it was because the date was nine months from the announcement of Jesus’ birth by the Angel Gabriel to Mary. Others believe it was an effort by the early church to claim the day for Jesus Christ over all the Roman gods and leaders. I don’t know that it actually matters why December 25 was chosen. What matters to me is the rich symbolism of what the early church was trying to say to us about the birth of Jesus.
When his disciples pointed out that Jesus was now out and about baptizing people and many were flocking to him, John the Baptist made it clear that he was not the Messiah and that he must decrease while Jesus must increase. What is interesting to note is that the early church placed the birth of John the Baptist on June 24, near the Summer Solstice. So, John the Baptist was born at the point in which, at least in the northern hemisphere, the days begin to grow shorter, or decrease.
It was appropriate, then, for Jesus to be born on or near the Winter Solstice, the point in the year when the days begin to grow longer, or increase. The birth of Jesus then becomes the moment in time when light is coming into the world. And isn’t that just what we have been waiting for and talking about during this Advent Season? So, you see, the absolute accuracy of the date of Jesus’ birth is not nearly as important as what the birth of Christ means to us. I, for one, hope the birth of Jesus Christ means a great deal to you and that you wait with anticipation for the coming of the Light of the Word into your world, into your life and into your very being.
My prayer for you, this Christmas, is that the birth of Jesus, the coming of Light into our world, will be real, very real for you and that in turn, you will be one of the followers of Jesus who help usher light into the lives of others. Merry Christmas.
O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to me, I pray. Cast out my sin and enter in, be born in me this day. Come, Eternal Christ, Light of the World. Amen.
If you would like to receive the Cathedral of Hope Devotion we would love to be able to send it to you directly. Sign up today to receive your own copy.