There are a thousand ways for winter to fall in a human life, and most have nothing to do with the weather. Any loss or tragedy will do the job: illness, poverty, age, abandonment—take your pick. But nothing freezes the heart as hard and fast as the horrors human beings deliberately inflict upon one another.
We all felt this happen on the September morning when we watched hate destroy two landmarks, thousands of incalculably precious lives, and a nation's sense of security. It will be many seasons before the chill of this terrible winter can be fully dispelled. But the holidays were designed to remind us that long before summer returns, we can take comfort in knowing that it will. After all, Jesus' birth was assigned to December 25, not because it was his actual birthday (no one's sure of that) but because it fell near one of the most sacred celebrations on the European calendar, the winter solstice. And so the event many of us mark with our most effusive celebration is not the new life of spring or the lushness of midsummer or the autumn harvest, but the elusive moment in the heart of winter when the promise of light and warmth first touches a frozen earth. To paraphrase French novelist Albert Camus, in the midst of winter, the holidays can help us discover that there is in each of us an invincible summer.