The longest night of the year comes very close to Christmas. The first day of winter is December 21st, and Christmas Day is always celebrated on December 25th. Even though winter’s strongest storms and coldest blasts are still to come, the very nature of the changing seasons and the rotating earth has days slowly gaining length and sunrays quietly gaining strength. We anticipate white winter blankets covering farms and cities alike, not giving much thought to reservoirs and lakes being replenished and frozen fields gently being prepared for planting. We endure cold winds, treacherous driving and multiple cancellations. It’s only the first day of winter, but somehow, we know we’ll make it through. The hope that comes with Christmas is so much more. In the story of Christmas, God becomes one of us, in the form of an infant, wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. We learn that God knows hardship, struggle, temptation, sin and death. What we know as winter, the bible often refers to as wilderness. What we experience as frozen and cold, the wilderness speaks of hot and dry with temperatures giving little relief. The Christmas story reminds us of the gentleness of God in the most ordinary aspects of life, giving shelter where there was no room in town, surrounding a desperate lonely couple with ordinary shepherd folk and extraordinary foreigners, students of the skies. Unlike the rhythm of fall, winter, spring and summer, the miracle of Christmas includes creator God becoming utterly vulnerable as an infant human, growing into a man named Jesus, meaning, “God delivers, God saves.” There is a hope that Jesus offers, that is more powerful than spring. It’s a hope that offers glimmers of light in the midst of the darkest of days, a faith that quenches in the midst of desert-like surroundings, and a love that offers warmth in midst of coldest winter conditions. In this season of Christmas, we are reminded just how magnificent and glorious our God really is. Sue and I would like to wish each and every one of you God’s richest blessings this Christmas Season, and in the New Year of 2019, realizing the best is yet to come. The promised kingdom of heaven here on earth will outshine a thousand spectacular springs.