Return of the Light

Dec 25, 2009 by

By Lisa Campion

Merry Christmas everyone!  It’s been a beautiful Christmas morning. The kids are sitting amidst the wrappings and boxes, admiring their Christmas morning gifts. The coffee cake is in the oven and I am thinking about bacon and eggs as Christmas music plays in the background. My family traditions are in full swing and the house is cozy and happy feeling.

Did you know that many of our Christmas traditions are actually about the  Winter Solstice?  Winter Solstice, which was on December 21st this year, is the shortest day of the year.   It’s one of the most powerful holy days for our Elders as it a turning point in the Wheel of the Year.   Back in the Old Days, this was a big deal since cold and dark were not particularity conducive to LIFE.  In our simple psyches LIGHT= LIFE and DARK=DEATH.   And for many this has been true and is still true.

For as long as there has been recorded history, people have been celebrating the return of the LIGHT at the Winter Solstice. (Hey, if you actually lived through the dark part of the year, there was much to celebrate!)  They celebrated with feasts and bonfires. They enacted plays where the returning sun vanquishes the dark.   They celebrated rebirth of the sun and the return of the Light.

They brought greenery into the house. Evergreens represent life that doesn’t die in the winter. Holly, green all winter with it’s bright red berries, dispels the Dark and protects against negativity.  It was hung at all the windows, doors and over the fireplace to guard the entrances of your home.

Mistletoe, sacred to the Druids was brought into the homes as a sign of wisdom, fertility and hope of the coming Spring.

Evergreen trees brought into the house were lit with candles signifying the return of the light.

Solstice, also called Yule, was a fire celebration. Bonfires or fires in the hearth burned all night to drive away the dark. The roots of trees, oak was best. were used to keep the fire alive. A piece of the Yule log was saved from year to year to start the next year’s fire. Nowadays, all we have left of this tradition is a cake shaped like a log!

When the Christians came along, they adopted this ancient holiday as their own version of the return of the light into the world.  Was Jesus actually born on this day?  Hard to say, there is some historical evidence that he was actually born in July!  But the message of Jesus fits very well into the Winter Solstice, where the Birth of the Sun became the Birth of the Son.   The light of the sun, became the Christ Light, the light of God within all of us, represented in the Christian faith as Jesus, whose birth we celebrate on this day.

Interestingly, the Old Ones reckoned that December 25th was the Solstice; it wasn’t until modern astronomy came into being that the true date of the Solstice was moved to the 21st.

So no matter what your faith and family traditions are on this day, it’s a wonderful time to celebrate the spirit of Light.  We celebrate family, love, generosity, charity and compassion.  We pray for peace on earth and goodwill towards all men.   This is the Christ Light.  What I admire the most about Jesus (the man, the prophet, the myth, however you choose to view him) was the incredible compassion of his heart. We call this the Sacred Heart.  In that heart, he held the suffering of all humankind with love. He ministered to all, the lame, the sick, the poor, the prostitutes, lepers – all the cast out and unwanted. He did street ministry, bringing his message of love, peace and the divine spark in all of us, to everyone.  These people were not allowed into the Temple, but he didn’t care.

He held the whole world in his heart. And when you open to the Christ Light in you, you can fit the whole living world into your Sacred Heart.

I hope you find time to do that today, amid your celebrations and traditions.  As I will hold all of you in my heart.

Blessed Solstice, Merry Christmas to you all! I will leave you with this poem by Susan Cooper that she wrote celebrating Yule for the Cambridge Christmas Revels many years ago.

The Shortest Day

By Susan Cooper

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!

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