Saturday, December 16, 2017

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, December 16, 2017 - The Approaching Solstice

It’s almost over. The declining of the light is starting to slow down now. We are reaching the lull period when the days and nights begin to exchange superiority. They are greeting one another in passing. Enjoying the few moments they have only twice each year when they are equals. Take heart now, the sun returns.
    Ancient cultures have a deeper understanding of how the earth is indistinct from all that walks upon it. It’s no effort for them to imagine their connection—their sense of ultimate belonging—to the earth itself. Humanity has wavered from that understanding. We have lost our sense of belonging to the earth. It’s okay. This too shall pass. 
    Through our scientific explorations of the planet we have inadvertently distanced ourselves from it in direct proportion to our awareness of its miracles. We feel increasingly inadequate to the intricacy of the profound creation we have been systematically discovering. We have become all too aware of our ability to destroy it as well. 
    The earth is also now approaching what is known as the perihelion, or the time in the our elliptical orbit around the sun during which we are the closest to it. The solstice is the beginning of that progression of celestial events. 
    Our traditions and rituals around this time of year directly reflect these celestial positions. We are intrinsically connected to all that happens on, or to, our planet. Our rituals and festivals remind us of our connection to the cycles of the earth. The push and pull of the objects which orbit around and near us affect everything in our world from ocean to sky. We are atomically entangled with that process. Our very bodies are pushed and pulled along with it.
    All modern religious scholarship acknowledges that Jesus of Nazareth was not actually born on December 25. But the festival is placed at this time of year because of how it is represented celestially. The cycle of the earth around the sun is a metaphor for the birth of Christ. It represents the return of light to the world and the time when we are physically closest each year to the sun, our great central source. 
   Hundreds of festivals celebrating the return of the light have occurred on this day throughout history. The entire Christmas Advent season is built upon those same historic foundations. They are intrinsic to humanity. Our need for light is constant. The loss is painful. Our celebrations comfort us more deeply than we are consciously aware. They cheer us where we need it most—our connection to the earth.
   Whether or not you celebrate the birth of Jesus, you are tied to the need for recognition of the return of the light. As society has seen fit for these festivals to become both dispensable and commercial, we have become more depressed. Our connection thins. Some who reject, or feel rejected by, organized religion are understandably cut off from the market of celebrations which Christianity has, for all intents and purposes, cornered. 
Recognizing our connection to the earth does not require a deity. The earth is like a deity unto itself, worthy of admiration, gratitude and blessing. And we are in no way separate from it. Remember your connection to the earth, it is not imaginary. It is separate from neither you nor God Itself.
   Christmas is a beautiful time of the year, intended to comfort and remind us that all is not lost. Joy to the world, the light returns. But Christianity does not own the month of December. Jesus is the reason we celebrate Christmas, but not the reason for the season itself. 
   Yet we needn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, either.
   Christianity was wise to understand that we need reasons to celebrate, even if their motive was to supplant other celebrations in favor of their own. The faces and names on the statues may change, but meaning is constant.
Be kind to yourself at this time. Turn your face to the sun. Find reasons to be around other people. Sing songs together. Eat too much. The birth of Jesus is only one of the many ways to celebrate the return of the light. If he is not your teacher, there are others. Find them. But be of good cheer. Be happy for those who are the same no matter to whom they pray. Comfort the grieving. Feed the hungry. Be the light you wish to see in the world. It matters now more than ever. 

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