Friday, December 23, 2011

Winter Solstice

Many of our pagan friends are celebrating this week, too. Here's an excerpt from a pagan site I found, describing the holiday a bit;

Winter Solstice also known as Yule, Christmas, and Saturnalia, occurs in mid December. It celebrates the birth of the new Solar year and the beginning of Winter. The Goddess manifests as the Great Mother and the God as the Sun Child. The God also appears as Santa Claus and Old Man Winter. Colors are Red, Green, and White. This is a festival of inner renewal.

Strengthen bonds with family and friends by visiting and/or exchanging gifts and greetings. Decorate your home with lights, greens, and holiday colors. Bless your home with a Yule wreath on your front door and sprigs of mistletoe inside. If you are part of a group, take up a collection of food and/or clothing at your Yule gathering and give what you collected to a social service agency to distribute to the needy (for example, Circle's Yuletide Charity Food Drive). Place sunflower seeds outside for wild birds to feast upon. Greet the Sun at dawn on Solstice morning by ringing bells. Do magic for a more peaceful planet.

OK, what's a good Christian lady like me doing posting about pagan rituals? Well, many Christians, and you know this, rankle at celebrating Christ's birth at the same time as a pagan festival. Many non-Christians point to this celebration as further proof that Christianity is just some made-up system that took advantage of existing holidays to supplant those earlier religions and grasp control over the masses.

Not so much.

God in Christ is in compete control of the world He created, and the Church shows this, wittingly or no, by adopting rituals and celebrations of past systems. We're taking back what's been ours since the beginning of things.

For example, the winter solstice. The pagan lady says the solstice celebrates the beginning of winter, and the start of a new solar year. OK. The Christian lady notes that, on the solstice, the day is shortest and the night the longest. That means that, starting on the winter solstice, the days, which have been getting shorter, begin getting longer again. (The season of Lent, which comes in about 8 weeks, is named for the "lengthening" of daylight.) In other words, light comes into the world. The light, the sunlight, and, also, the Light of Christ, whose birth we celebrate.

Coincidence? I, obviously, think not.

Do we have to do anything to have this happen? No. Just as the light comes to us without our bidding or help, so the Light comes into the world without any bidding or help, unless you count the work of labor of a young Jewish woman.

Is December 25 the actual anniversary of the birth of Christ? Probably not. Some people say this happened in the spring; shepherds would be out in the fields in spring, tending their sheep. Others have figured it at various different times of the year. My own completly uneducated self thinks that the celebration is more important to my spiritual health than pinpointing the exact day. For myself, I need to think in terms of Light returning to the earth, rather than nitpicking about December 25 vs April 2, vs whenever. (Although, having attended the births of various critters, I lean toward a spring birth. I feel for those shepherds, sleeping out in the open, waiting for some sheep to drop a lamb, or to need help doing so.)

So, long story short, Christ was born, bringing with Him light and life into the world. Was He born in December? Not sure. Lots of evidence for other dates. None of that, in my mind, is going to change the focus and purpose of the celebration. Focus on the "Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing," and not on the conflict over when and where and how we celebrate. Enjoy the lengthening of days, and the steady march toward the light. Share this with your family and friends, with words and actions and feasting. Oh, the feasting. Be sure of God's love for you in Christ as you head into a new year full of promise and revel in His deliverance from the problems it will also bring.

Merry Christmas!!

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