The Return of Light

This end of week period leading into Christmas includes several stellar days: the Solstice, Hanukkah, a New Moon, and Christmas Eve, all bellweather dates for celebrating the return and rebirth of light.

This morning, I was thinking about my friends who live in the Southern Hemisphere and how this time of year for them is high summer, this solstice their turn from long days to shorter days into winter while in our Northern Hemisphere the turn is to light and to longer days into summer.

And I know there are families in Australia, for example, celebrating Christmas, with very different customs, I’d think. Although I did read how Cate Blanchett said they have a traditional roast beef Christmas dinner but no one eats it because it’s too hot. Odd, this Christmas thing and the traditions around it.

And then I began thinking how Christmas is really a European creation; i.e. from the Northern Hemisphere. Yes, we’d like to think it’s a desert creation with the birth of Jesus and all that: the baby, the star, wise men, shepherds; but the reality is Christmas was created in Rome. And developed throughout Europe to replace the pagan holiday around Solstice. And yet, tomorrow morning in church, we’ll read the story of Mary and Joseph and the baby and once more, we will celebrate the birth.

We are such odd beings we human being. No doubt someone reading this post will complain I’m taking the magic out of Christmas, as if that weren’t an oxymoron in itself. Magic? Christmas? Okay.

I like it too! Our house is filled with magic: with lights and cards and packages and wrapping. All of it. Oh, and cookies. I’m not sure what kind of magic that is, but they sure are good.

What I especially like at this time of year is family and stories. And I remind myself (as I seem to do each year) to ask my older sister about the stories she remembers from when we were young. And Cliff pulls out the Christmas movies and we watch Alastair Sim create Scrooge once again (I don’t deserve to be so happy!); and we pull out the Grinch (both Jim Carrey and the cartoon); and A Child’s Christmas in Wales (did you even know there was a movie based on the book?). Cliff lines up the movies next to the television and we go through them one by one, just as he stacks up the Christmas CDs and we go through them one by one.

Last year, our house was filled with family. This year, it’s mostly filled with simple. Just us. And both are wonderful in their own way.

So however you are celebrating these holy-days, may they be filled with laughter and light and peace and, most especially, cookies!

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Advent and Angels

Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly. C.K.Chesterton

Advent begins tomorrow, tomorrow being Sunday for those of you who have lost track of the days with the Thanksgiving holiday; and Advent, for those not familiar with the rite, are the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Advent, or adventus in Latin, means “coming” and the coming birth of the child Jesus.

As a side note to Advent and angels, it’s funny to compare the language of Black Friday, with which commerce begins the season, with Advent, in church language. Ah, yes, once again the combination of sacred and secular.

I like Advent; but then again, I like Christmas, too, with all the candles and lights and twinkling and pine boughs and stores filled with people and Salvation Army Santas ho-hoing outside. I like it all.

And especially, I like calling in the blessing of the angels every First Sunday in Advent, as in tomorrow, which I do every year.

I don’t know what “angels” are. Oh, I know names and concepts and what other people say they are, what other mystics have said, but I’m a rather pragmatic mystic. I say I don’t know. What I do know is that I can feel the energy like velvet against my skin and a trembling along my shoulders. What I also feel is humble. We call; they come.

I also particularly like the idea of taking this season lightly. Pushing and shoving to buy is not my idea of lightly; neither is a penitential demeanor. These are holy days and are meant to be celebrated.

The tides and times of the earth year, if nothing else, demand ceremony. All ancient peoples knew this, whether in the Northern Hemisphere or the Southern. I think of my friends who live in the Southern Hemisphere at the high earth-tipping-times, the Solstices, and I celebrate their days of full light as I celebrate our days of deep stillness as we wait for the return of light.

It doesn’t matter how we name these times: they are sacramental holy-days.

I want to remember to hold myself as lightly as angels this  holiday time, to laugh at the burned cookies because my wings lifted me into distraction, or the ornament that somehow all by itself grows wings and flies from the tree to shatter on the hard reality of floor. We could all probably take note of the hard floor and practice our landing, toes pointed, wings fluttering, oh so lightly.

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