In her New York Times op-ed, “Looking for Light on the Longest Night of the Year,” Margaret Renkl, writing at the beginning of the winter solstice on December 21, the shortest day and longest night of the year, remarked that “since long before Jews began to celebrate Hanukkah and Christians began to celebrate Christmas, ancient peoples across the Northern Hemisphere marked the arrival of the winter solstice [with] rituals meant to summon the sun or rejoice at its rebirth.” Observing the candlelight flickering from the menorah merging with the campfire she and her friends gathered around to celebrate Hanukkah, she thought about “how comforting it is that this season of lights always coincides with the darkest time of the year.”
I love running in the snow. There’s something serene and meditative about an early morning run on a snow day, when the streets are empty and the world is so quiet that you can hear the flakes landing. One sort of gets lost in their head in contemplation while choosing key next steps for the journey ahead—literally—as every step while ideally in stride, must be thoughtful and careful, given the slippery, potentially dangerous conditions.
“Thus says the Lord, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go” (Isaiah 48:17). The Prophet Isaiah has been playing like a pump-up mix tape throughout these first two of weeks of Advent, giving us words of assurance, peace and hope. On Wednesday, right as our students and faculty entered the real crunch of this semester’s final days, we heard Isaiah 40: 28-31:
For me, the most difficult part of the Boston Marathon is not the hours of anxious waiting in Hopkinton leading up to the start of the race, nor the pounding downhill for the first eight miles that come back to bite you later in the race—or, even Heartbreak Hill. Rather, it’s the short little stretch that occurs well after you’ve hit the wall, are on your last legs, and then the course dips down underneath a bridge into a short tunnel. The transition from light into darkness, then from the darkness back into the light, is shocking and disorienting. You’ve got to keep it together, your feet under you and your heart, mind and eyes focused on the light at the end of the tunnel. The finish line is just a few strides up the road.