Historians don’t know whether December 25 was Jesus’ actual birthday, but the commemoration of the midnight birth of the Savior in the darkest days of Palestine’s winter has always been associated with the power of hope. Just as winter darkness must gradually recede to allow summer brightness to return, so too must the moral darkness of sin and suffering recede with the advent of God’s saving grace wherever it makes an entrance.
One symbol of hope that appears frequently in early Christian art is the anchor. Early Christians knew that faith didn’t remove all trouble—struggles, persecution, sickness, and death are companions of both believers and unbelievers. The message of Jesus and his crucifixion and resurrection gave knowledge of a life beyond this fallen world, a life in which suffering would cease and joy would be unending. God’s grace and mercy are available to lead every believer through the present darkness into the light of eternal life.
An anchor gives stability to a seafaring vessel. It grounds it amid turbulent waters. It’s an eloquent symbol of the steadfastness, endurance, and dependability that God’s love brings to any human heart that accepts it. No matter how dark things may get, no matter how long the darkness lasts, the light will never be vanquished.
What is your anchor? What are you hoping for, and how do you hope to get it? What hopes do you nourish by calling them to mind and mulling them over? The powers of darkness are real, and they never tire of trying to jade us and lull us into cynicism, useless criticism, and the deadening spiritual anemia of quiet despair.
We must believe that all the darkness, all the failures, all the complications, all the messes, and all the tangles of life in this fallen world are not the conclusion of the story. There is—and there always will be—an end to the darkness.
This, too, is a lesson to be learned from the wisdom of winter.