There’s a lady in our ward at church whose family moved here from the United States a few months ago, I think due to her husband’s work. For her, Christmas this year is feeling very strange, because she is used to it being in the middle of a snowy, cold winter, with evergreen trees and fires and lots of warming food and decorations. It all looks and feels so different here.
I was thinking about this today, as I read about how Christmas celebrates light in the midst of the darkness of winter – for the northern half of the world. This is where the traditions we’re familiar with about it began. It comes when the days are shortest; the turning point towards spring and the new year. And it is a lovely way to think of Christmas – light in the darkness, cheer and warmth and gathering with others to increase feelings of joy and hope in such cold and difficult times.
Although Christmas in the southern hemisphere occurs during the warmest and longest days of the year, and this changes quite a lot of what we do around the celebration, this setting gives it something it doesn’t have in the north. For us, Christmas is a time of great light, of warmth and life and flourishing of the natural world. In this, I see an indication of the love and light of our Saviour and Father in Heaven. We don’t need to create that physical light – it’s provided for us. The longest, loveliest days of the year, the beautiful flowering plants, the warmth and ease of living through this season. It’s all given to us, just like the saving power of Christ is offered to all.
So Christmas in summer shows the other side of the coin: rather than light in the darkness, it is light given in abundance to us; rather than the warmth created by traditions of fire and winter-green trees and connections with family and friends, warmth is freely available already, as a symbol of the love of Christ and the warmth His gospel provides to our souls; instead of hope for spring and new life, life in its abundance is all around us; we are in the thick of it; it is the promise of hope and life fulfilled.
Whether we’re in the middle of a dark, cold winter, or the long, bright days of summer, both provide beautiful and meaningful reminders of the love and promise of Christmas. I’m grateful to live in a part of the world where this is what Christmas provides as its symbols, and I’m glad that many also get to experience the other side of that symbolism, in places where the conditions are the opposite.