Today, June 21, 2010 is summer solstice, the first day of summer, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, and of course then, the shortest night. From this day forward until December 23rd, the winter solstice, the days will get shorter and the nights longer.
Pagans (now neo-pagans) have always given this day a special significance. Their religion is rooted in the cycles of nature. Things come and things go; they rise and fall; ebb and flow. Today neo-pagan nature/earth worshippers gather in various “sacred” spaces on the planet to celebrate their reverence for nature. Solstice is both the peak and the tipping point of vibrant life in nature. At the ultimate moment of life and warmth, we’re reminded that nature will now take its turn and move us back toward death and darkness. That’s the “truth” of nature that pagans celebrate…
As a Christian I understand the pagan focus. I respect nature, but I do not worship her. While I admit the cycles of life – hey, I live in Minnesota and summer and winter, spring and autumn are a big deal for us – I cannot revere them. I am part of nature, yet at the same time I stand above it.
Christian faith admits nature’s power but then faces down this real world and the cycles of life, death, and rebirth, by breaking the pattern in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We’re audacious enough to defy the cycles with faith in the final and permanent rebirth of a real human being, also God himself. Pagans have always found our faith distasteful, and accused us of denying reality. Fantasy, some have called it. But as Christians we reply that our faith is not too good to be true, it’s too good not to be true. We do not concede to nature; we rise above it, eternally, into a realm of life above and beyond the bounds of the laws of this universe. We go there with Jesus, our Lord, who historically, actually, finally defeated death in a real time and place and this earth. Then he gives us access to his triumph not because we are better than anyone but because Jesus himself is better, and generous to include us in his own virtue.
I’ll enjoy the long day today. I’m relish the warmth and sunlight. I’ll feel good, even as the inevitable decline back toward winter begins. But I will not concede that this is all in all. I will look forward in my faith in Jesus to pattern-breaking life forever with and in Him! It begins even now in me, the seed of eternity starts to grow here and now, one day to be completed and finally realized. Summer Solstice, well and good; but it’s not sacred to me because it’s not final, it’s not sovereign, it’s not the last word. The last word is JESUS, who is making a world where light will never fail or fade!
“Jesus, thank you for Summer. Thank you for light and warmth. Thank you for the sun. Thank you too that while we can appreciate the gifts of nature, we are not subject to living our lives within the limits of cycles and seasons. We can rise above and beyond all natural limits by faith in you. Today, give us that grace again, to see you as the Creator of creation and the One who lifts us up to be with you forever, even now. In Jesus!”