This coming Sunday marks the end of Daylight Saving Time and a return to shorter days and less sunlight. While many people celebrate the Sunday when we set the clocks back and gain an extra hour of sleep, just as many find themselves battling the doldrums that come with an earlier sunset.
Studies have been done on the benefits of light therapy for those who find this season of the year especially difficult, if not downright debilitating. That therapy consists of spending time in the presence of a box that gives off a sufficient amount of artificial light that mimics the outdoors. The brain then emits chemicals that lift spirits and enable recipients to gain better emotional balance. This treatment is a relatively recent one, and has proved to be the salvation of many.
I must confess that at one point in my life this particular transition of time didn’t bother me one bit. But now as I’ve aged, I tend to struggle with it a bit more. The combination of cold weather and early afternoon twilight takes its toll on my spirits, to the point of my finding a way to avoid spiraling down to a place of spiritual gloom. Perhaps you can relate.
One approach that has worked for me has been to remind myself that we’re not talking about a long period of time before the earth reaches its farthest point from the sun and the days begin to lengthen. I tell myself that if I can just hold out to December 21, a six-week period of time, I will then be able to celebrate with sun-lovers (not worshipers) everywhere the rhythms of God’s orderly creation and the glories that go with it.
Which leads to a second and much more faithful response – in God’s providence, the season of darkness was precisely the time when God chose to send His Son into the world. As John reminds us in the prologue to his Gospel, “in (Jesus) was life and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5). And as Paul wrote to the Galatians, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son…” (Galatians 4:4). The darkness never has the last word. God does, in the Word that became flesh, and the light of Christ will always shine through.
So, as we say goodbye to one more hour of daylight this early Sunday morning, let us also say a word of welcome to the light of Christ that can be found at any hour of the day. It is a fact that sometimes we experience Christ’s light in the most dismal and discouraging of times, which is yet another evidence of divine grace. Therefore, there's no reason for any of us to be down for very long, and if we are, Jesus will lift us up. That’s a promise to set not just our clocks by, but our souls as well, and for some of us to do so now more than ever.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and His glory appears over you” (Isaiah 60:1-2).