No-one knows when Jesus was born, whether the census and the stable took place in November or August or June, whether the Messiah took his first breath in summer or against a winter chill.
And so we celebrate Christmas in December, because there’s a solstice in December, and humanity has always celebrated with the seasons and the sun and the rhythms of the world.
Four sleeps before Christmas is the shortest day, when the sun sets at its earliest and the hours of darkness are at their peak. And we know this is nothing more than the turn of the planet, but still, there’s something evocative and maybe intimidating about the idea of the longest night.
This morning on Twitter, the Reverend Sally Hitchiner proposed a new Advent tradition – using the day of greatest darkness to remember the times in life when the light seems far away, when hope and optimism and celebration seem far away. For a church that’s often bad at lament, the idea of an Advent mourning is a powerful one.
And so maybe today’s as good a day as any to remember the darkness of Christmas, the mistakes and the murders and the implications about which no-one writes carols.
Maybe it’s a time to remember a refugee saviour and those displaced by conflict and prejudice and violence, those who are running for the border or simply to get out of the front door before it’s too late.
A time to remember the soup kitchens and homeless shelters and refuges and food banks, these and the people who now rely on them for safety and security and square meals.
A time to remember the unemployed, the sick, the mocked, the oppressed. A time to remember those made to feel less than human, those named as The Enemy by those with politics and doctrine on their side.
As the sun goes down and we walk into the longest night, remember that Christmas isn’t all about baubles and Bing Crosby, that if the story of the baby in the manger has any power at all, it has to be able to confront corruption, to bring comfort in the midst of heartbreak and loss.
Christmas has to be a flickering candle in the dark and a light at the end of the tunnel, balancing the hope of freedom and peace with the image of the Holy Family running from Herod’s death squads. Let’s mourn with those who mourn, weep with those who weep, and hold each other’s hands through the night, waiting for the sun to rise.