Over the past four years, I have spent my Christmases in the snow-swept plains of northern United States. Having grown up in the subtropics, white Christmas was a new experience for me. In the beginning, the snowy landscapes are breathtakingly beautiful. But after a while, the long winter nights and the short, overcast days grow wearisome. The trees are bare. The grass is buried. There is no green, no birdsong, and hardly any sunlight. Winter where I live is cold, dreary, and tiring. I remember when spring came my first year and the snow started melting: the drip, drip, drip of melted snow was such an exciting sound. And the first patch of green grass! It was a beautiful sight.
But for now, that little patch of green hope is still very far away. I’m currently looking out on a lawn of yellowed grass, framed by naked tree branches and gray clouds. The only brightness comes from the Christmas decorations which frame windows and eaves. They all light up at night, and it all looks so very cheerful.
Over the years, biblical scholars among others, have enjoyed reminding me that our Savior Jesus was not born on December 25. Instead, if we consider that the shepherds were out in their fields guarding sheep when the angel visited (Luke 2:8), it is more likely that Jesus’ birth occurred in late summer or early autumn. This is all fine and well. They are probably right. I am not about to contend with that. But still, I love celebrating His birth in the middle of winter.
You see, winter is so very long and dreary. It has always been a hard time both financially and emotionally. Hunger and cold combined are hard to battle, especially when days are gray and nights are long. Sometimes we forget that eventually the snow will melt. In the winters of our own lives, sometimes we just can’t see any way out. Sometimes circumstances weigh us down and we really don’t know that things will get better.
We live in a broken world and the price of sin is death. It feels like there is no hope of spring. As the creatures exclaimed in the children’s book Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, it was “always winter, and never Christmas!”
But this is the world that Jesus came to. Some two thousand years ago, He took on flesh and came to our dead, hopeless world. That was the first Christmas, when the Messiah was born to save this broken world. He lived 33 years, doing God’s work, and in the end, He died for us, and rose again in victory over death. It didn’t matter what season Christmas was—summer, autumn, or even spring; before Jesus’ birth, our broken world was as hopeless as the coldest winter night.
I enjoy celebrating Jesus’ birth during these coldest days of the year. I remember that our world was dark as the coldest winter night until God intervened and brought forth unimaginable hope and light.
So this year, as the dreary winter rolls on with no sign of spring, I will hang up Christmas lights to brighten my home a little, and remember how Jesus brought light into this hopeless world by His birth, life, death, and resurrection.