Sunday, November 29, 2009


The winter solstice is only a few weeks away—folks know it as the shortest day, the longest night. It’s the official beginning of winter (even though, in fact, the earth is closer to the sun in our winter than in our summer). It’s not so bad here in Alabama, but when I was living in England (far nearer the Arctic Circle) twilight began setting in around 3:30—we had a maximum of perhaps 9 hours of sunlight in those days (if in fact the sun was shining at all—clouds are the dominant weather feature of winter in Britain).

It is natural to look to light as a sign of hope and joy, and this is one of the reasons for festivals of light in this time-frame. Christians (especially Catholics) light the four candles of our Advent wreath, one by one, for each of the four weeks of the season, as a longing anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Light of the world (John 9:5).

The Jews, too, celebrate the festival of lights at this time—Chanukah is the 8-day celebration of the Re-dedication of the Temple by Judas (“Maccabeus”) and his brothers in the middle of the 2nd century BC. The candles of menorah are also lit one by one, to mark the eight days. This year Chanukah will begin the evening of Saturday, 12 December.

In the Latin American world, this day will also be marked by celebration and much light: the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The processions and vigils, marked by candles and torches, will be nothing short of incredible, particularly in Mexico City and in Chicago.

We all need a guiding light, and we crave to celebrate that light at a time when in fact the days begin growing longer and the nights begin to shorten. In that light there is hope. Jews are waiting for the Messiah; Christians are waiting for the return of Jesus, the Messiah. And so we hope. The message of Guadalupe is that the Light we wait for is actually here and hasn’t left us, even when we feel lost in darkness.

Blessed Advent to us all. Blessed Chanukah to us all. Our Lady of Guadalupe, lead us to the Light.

PS--for a video clip of the procession for Our Lady of Guadalupe, I encourage you all to check ""--you'll love it.

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