For many, the winter solstice may not seem like a noteworthy day. But the day has astronomical, cultural and religious significance for people all over the world. Celebrations of the lighter days to come and nature’s continuing cycle have been common throughout cultures and history with feasts, festivals and holidays around the December Solstice.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice happens in December. It marks the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year. Although winter is the season of dormancy, darkness and cold, the December Solstice marks the "turning of the Sun" and the days slowly get longer.
How though, does the day mix in with the Christian faith?
Appreciating God’s Work
If we view the wonders of God’s creation the way He wanted us to, we can also consider what Paul said in Romans 1:20 and allow this time of year to help us appreciate one of the many wonderful things that God has created. Paul wrote, “For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead.”
The winter solstice simply marks a key point in the wondrous procession of the seasons that God has created. For those in moderate climates, it would be weird to imagine October without autumn colored leaves or May without beautiful budding flowers. All of the seasons were beautifully sculpted by the hands of God to create our world.
In northern climates, many of the plants God created need the cold winter temperatures. Apples, apricots, peaches and nuts require the chilled weather to produce. Without the winter cold followed by the beginning of spring, the sweet golden nectar of maple syrup would not flow. This, too, needs the winter months in order to produce. None of these gems of God’s creation would be possible without the change of seasons.
The winter solstice has played a unique part in pagan religious practices throughout history from the Amaterasu celebration in 7th century Japan, to the Ziemassvetkic festival in ancient Latvia. However, the people were deceived and observed the occasion out of fear and superstition. Many of ancestors were so afraid that their world would descend into darkness, that when the sun’s warmth began to last longer they felt compelled to worship the sun rather than the God who created it this way. With this in mind, God told the Israelites, “Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the Gentiles are dismayed at them” (Jeremiah 10:1–4).
The winter solstice is not something that should be feared, but instead just another wonder of how God intertwined everything in the universe to develop a perfect balance. Ancient cultures were blinded by Satan’s deception, “exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25).
Ties With Christmas
Pagan worship of the winter solstice is condemned by scripture as read in Jeremiah 10:1-4. For some historians, it's believed that the date of Christ’s birth was chosen in December to offset pagan celebrations of Saturnalia and Natalis Invicti which occur around the same time.
In modern times Christians all over the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day, which falls on December 25. While the winter solstice itself has no formal ties to Christianity, it does mark an important point in the year that happens to fall around the birthday of Jesus Christ. Some believe that celebrating the birth of the “true light of the world” was set in synchronization with the December solstice because from that point onwards, the days began to have more daylight in the Northern Hemisphere.
God could have very well brought His son down on earth during the solstice as a way to show His people that there would be a light in the darkness. Each year then sets as a reminder to us that God gave us His one and only Son so that we could be cleansed of our sins. God chose to bring us light in a period of literal darkness on earth.
The winter solstice is an important time of the year that reminds us that the warmth of summer is slowly coming back again. This is a representation of God’s amazing handiwork in nature, and His unique ability to combine everything together to create a perfect earth. This also marks the time of year that God gave us His one and only Son, the true light of the world. It is not something that should be feared, or a negative sign from the Heavens above. Instead it’s a reminder of the great things to come.