At the time of this writing the new year is 17-1/2 hours old. Wisconsin has been wrapped up in a deep freeze for a couple of weeks now. The bitter cold is a harsh reminder that our lives aren’t always filled with green grass and sunshine (apologies to those of you who reside in more temerate climes, this illustration will be difficult for you to grasp!). The tilt of the earth finds us at the farthest point from the sun this time of year. The leaves have long since fallen from the trees. The squirrels have laid up for themselves food that will see them through the short days and bitterly cold nights. A blanket of snow has covered the grass like dirt covering a casket.
While I don’t prefer being cold, I still choose to live here. Part of the reason is the distinct four seasons. I know and understand that the life of spring is indistinct apart from the death of Winter. I know that Spring is coming as surely as I know that the harsh realities of Winter sometimes make it dangerous to venture outside for more than a few minutes. The darkness and cold are real, just as the warmth and light of Summer.
Have you ever wondered why the new year begins with the “death” of Winter instead of the “life” of Spring? As I mentioned, we are, in the Northern Hemisphere, at our farthest from the sun during Winter. “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our tresspasses” (Colossians 2:13, ESV). We are natural-born sinners (Psalm 51:5)! We began our lives in death, estranged from God. The death-chill filled our first breath. We were, at that moment, at the furthest distance from the Son. We perhaps didn’t realize it at the time, but it was dangerous to venture outside. We didn’t realize that “sin is crouching at the door. It’s desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7, ESV).
The year must begin in darkness because the earth began in darkness. The year must begin in darkness because we were born in spiritual darkness. The year must begin in darkness because, if we didn’t understand the darkness we could never appreciate the Light.
Know this: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5, ESV). I know that this time of year can be difficult for a lot of people for almost as many reasons. Jesus is the Light that shines in the darkness. Focus your gaze upon Him. The Son, and the sun, will once again warm your heart and brighten your face.