The Relationship Between Advent and the Change in the Seasons
Our Lady of the Snows
Dom Guéranger, in his Liturgical Year, under the entry for the feast of St. Bibiana (which is December 2nd), makes a wonderful commentary on the relationship between the season of Advent, and the change in the seasons towards winter. Winter doesn't officially start until a few days before Christmas, but the trend toward that season is well under way when Advent usually starts in the Northern Hemisphere.
"We will today consider the state of nature at this season of the year. The earth is stripped of her wonted verdure, the flowers are gone, the fruits are fallen, the leaves are torn from the trees and scattered by the wind, and every living things stiffens with the cold. It seems as though the hand of death had touched creation. We see the sun rise after the long night of his absence; and scarcely have we felt his warmth at noon, than he sets again, and leaves us in the chilly darkness. Each day he shortens his visit. Is the world to become sunless, and are men live out the rest of life in gloom? The old pagans, who witnessed this struggle between light and darkness, and feared the sun was going to leave them, dedicated the twenty-fifth day of December, [around] the winter solstice, to the worship of the sun. After this day their hopes revived on seeing the glorious luminary again mounting up in the sky, and gradually regaining his triumphant position."
"We Christians can have no such feelings as these. Our light is the true faith, which tells us that there is a Sun to be sought for which never sets, and is never eclipsed. Having Him, we care little for the absence of any other brightness; nay, all other light, without Him, can only lead us astray. O Jesus! Thou True light, that enlightenest every man coming into this world! Thou didst choose, for Thy birth among us, a time of year which forces us to reflect upon the miserable state of the world when Thou didst come to save it. 'The evening was coming on, and the day was far spent,' says St. Bernard: 'the Sun of justice had all but set, so that exceeding scanty was His light or warmth on earth: for the light of divine knowledge was very faint, and, sin abounding, the heat of charity had grown cold. There was neither angel to visit men, nor prophet to speak to them; both seemed in despair, for the hardness and obstinacy of man had made every effort useless: then I said - they are the words of our Redeemer - then I said, lo! I come! [from St. Bernard's First Sermon of Advent]'"
"O Jesus! O Sun of Justice! give us a clear knowledge of what the world is without Thee; what our understanding is without Thy light; and what our heart [is] without the divine heat. Open Thou the eyes of our faith; that whilst seeing with the eyes of the body the gradual decrease of material light, we may think of that other darkness, which is in the soul that has not Thee. Then, indeed, will the cry which comes from the depths of our misery make its way to Thee, and Thou wilt come on the day Thou hast fixed, dispelling every shadow of darkness by Thy irresistible brightness."