Wednesday, December 21, 2011

December 21, 2011: Winter Solstice

As the year progresses, the sun appears not only to move from east to west, but also to trace a path farther north or south in the sky.  This northerly or southerly travel continues until the solstice, when the sun appears to stand still and begin to reverse course.  Today is the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, which, for us, means the shortest day and the longest night of the year.  After this, the hours of daylight will increase, and the darkness will decrease.

In an amazing twist of fate, our celebration of the feast of Christmas coincides roughly with the winter solstice, and the beginning of ever-increasing daylight.  It appears that according to the Julian calendar, in use at the time of Christ, the winter solstice was regarded as occurring on -- December 25th.  I am not versed in the vagaries of calendars; still, it seems noteworthy that we continue to celebrate Christmas on December 25th, and that December 25 falls at a moment of the year when the hours of daylight are just beginning to lengthen.

Coincidence?  We know from Scripture that nature reflects God's glory.  Is it just possible, then, that (a) Christ really was born on December 25th, and (b) He deliberately timed His coming this way, so that we who walk in the most profound darkness of the year would see a Great Light?


  1. More than just possible . . . I think it was deliberate.
    God is pretty smart, you know (my cosmic understatement).
    I believe that ancient tradition has it that the Annunciation was in fact at or near the spring equinox, and the birth of John the Baptist at or near the summer solstice.

  2. Those are good points, Bob. For the record, next year's vernal equinox will fall on March 20th (Annunciation: March 25th), and the summer solstice will fall on June 21st (nativity of John the Baptist: June 24th).

    Come to think of it -- and the following is just my own opinion -- it's rather appropriate that the Nativity of John the Baptist should coincide with the summer solstice. That is the longest day of the year, and the point at which the hours of daylight begin to decrease; and John said that he must decrease while Christ increased. And Christ, the Light of the World, came at the winter solstice, the moment when light begins to increase.

  3. So... what does this portend for the faithful in the southern hemisphere?

  4. So... what does this portend for the faithful in the southern hemisphere?

    Does anyone in the Southern Hemisphere want to weigh in?

    I did actually wonder about this. Still, it only makes sense that these things should be seen from the point of view of the Northern Hemisphere, since it is in the Northern Hemisphere that the seminal events of Christianity took place.