In our releasings come our new beginnings...
“He judged the instant and let go; he flung himself loose into the stars.” ― Annie Dillard
Advent began today.
Blessed Be the returning of the Son.
This year Advent crosses paths with the Winter Solstice.
Blessed Be the returning of the Sun.
These two Holy days have been intertwined since eons before the Word was made flesh. People have celebrated the Winter Solstice for untold millennia before Jesus was born, and his birth date wasn't given a spot on the calendar until hundreds of years after his birth. Before that church leaders were focused on celebrating Easter. Jesus' birthday? Not so much.
But in the year 336 c.e. that officially changed.
St. Augustine preached that:
"He, therefore, who bent low and lifted us up chose the shortest day, yet the one whence light begins to increase."*
Now, all of a sudden, Christians had permission to again celebrate the Winter Solstice as their pagan neighbors were doing. As, in truth, their ancestors did before the unexpected birth of a long-awaited Savior. The Winter Solstice is truly the shortest day of the year. It is known by many as the day of Holy Darkness.
Go to sleep on that night of Holy Darkness and when you wake up the days will be getting consistently and reliably longer for the next six months, until the Summer Solstice (the longest day).
It can be near impossible for us living in this modern world filled with lights to help keep us up well past the falling sun to grasp the magnitude of the return of the light. But it was a BIG DEAL for most of human history.
A really, awesomely, most welcome BIG DEAL to have the daylight begin to lengthen again.
It was one of the most magical moments in each yearly cycle.
It was the day when humans were reassured that the light would return, the crops would grow again, the ground would thaw and the air would warm once more.
It was a day that, depending on where on the planet you lived, you remembered what it was like to have Hope for tomorrow.
Hope is indeed a magical gift - from God or god it matters not to me right now.
"Early church leaders endeavored to attract pagans to Christianity by adding Christian meaning to existing winter solstice festivals. This gave rise to an interesting play on words... In several languages, not just in English, people have traditionally compared the rebirth of the sun with the birth of the son of God." Brian Handwerk
I have no problem with the early Christian church co-opting this most important Holy Day. It makes perfect sense to merge these two days into one. Both from a peace-keeping view and also from a colonizing / marketing view. The Winter Solstice was already a Holy Day, church leaders hoped it would make it easier for their pagan neighbors and unbelievers to become fellow followers of Christ.
The early church co-opting this ancient pagan Holy Day is both an ending and a sacred beginning.
Endings and beginnings are a simultaneously occurring moment in time.
Take, for example, a dark room and a light switch. By flipping that light switch on we cause the darkness to evaporate at the same exact moment in time that the light explodes before our eyes.
This is as it should be in moments like these.
In our releasings come our new beginnings...
This morning, while sitting on a wooden pew listening to the sermon for this first Sunday in Advent, I became bathed in an internal light that spoke to me, that asked me to examine what must evaporate for the light to return in my life this season?
Into my wide-open heart and nervous mind I asked myself, "What if we choose to see Advent as an ending/beginning in our journey deeper into ourselves?"...
There must be an ending for there to be a new beginning.
With Advent we have the luxury of knowing the light will begin to return on a certain date.
We can pray.
We can examine.
We can become ready...
“If it doesn't agree with your spirit let it go.” ― Germany Kent
And I found myself contemplating:
What is calling to be released this season?
What ending is here for me, in this time?
What do I need to do to be ready to begin, yet again, anew?
I wanted to share these contemplations with you.
And I ask, in quiet hope, will you please join me in this space? This sacred space of releasing what was to that there is space to embrace what is about to become?
Will you please use these next four weeks to release that whichever is ready to go?
Because there is always something calling after you, whispering and screaming to be released...
Because it is in our releasings that come our new beginnings...
Because life is better when you love yourself.
...With the lighting of the first advent candle the light has begun to take over the darkness…
Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness. – Anne Frank