Winter has well and truly arrived after our overnight freezes last weekend. It seems like perfect weather to wrap yourself up in a blanket in front of the television and hibernate until the summer returns.
If we were in the Northern Hemisphere however, winter would be a really important time as churches, families and communities got ready to celebrate Christmas. In fact, we sometimes try and copy that feeling during our winters, with pubs and clubs hosting special ‘Christmas in July’ lunches and parties.
It has often fascinated me that in those frozen Northern countries big religious celebrations like Hanukkah and Christmas happen in the middle of winter. It really does seem like a terrible time to be out and about.
Yet, winter helps reveal the true meaning of these festivals – hope.
Hanukkah, or the feast of the dedication, is a Jewish celebration from the middle of winter where, by a miracle, the ritual light in the temple was able to burn through the cold and dark for eight days, even though the Priest had only enough oil for one.
Similarly, at Christmas we celebrate the light of God entering the world not with glory and triumph, but in the face of a small and weak baby, wrapped in cloth and lying in a cold manger.
In both celebrations, God manages to bright light, love and life where it was unexpected. Suddenly, the people found hope, where before there had been none. And that hope kept the people going through the cold winter, until the spring returned.
We all have winters in our life (both physically and metaphorically). We all have times that we need to huddle up and the blankets and wait out the cold and dark. But even in those moments, God is at work bringing hope.
So, this winter, what gives you hope?