Can There Be Light Without Dark?

Although I was raised in the predominantly Christian USA culture of the 1950s & 60s, my Quaker family didn’t identify as such. I was told at a tender young age that Jesus was our most important teacher, but not the incarnation of God. Never the less, we celebrated Christmas with our own special kind of abandon. Thus, I have always loved this time of year, while also becoming increasingly alarmed at its commercialization. Although some rail against the secularization of this religious holiday, I don’t mind- because I have come to know, to experience more consciously  what this season is really about, at least for those of us who live in the Northern hemisphere of our home, Earth. Much of ‘how’ we celebrate Christmas dates back to before Christianity was the dominant religion of Europe. It is essentially a pre-Christian holiday of the season, the winter solstice. It celebrates the divine darkness, the resting, the waiting and the hope that, once again the light will return. How odd we humans are, celebrating the light in the dark!

Take the origin of the wreathe. It was a tradition to spend the weeks before the solstice (the shortest day of the year, or when the sun turns the corner, heading us back towards summer) in prayer, supplication and preparation for the celebration of the sun’s return. So people removed one of the wheels from their cart (the major form of work transport), decorated it and hung it on their door. As you can imagine, this slowed things down a bit. Work was not impossible, but mostly just the essentials got done, it would seem. In todays world what wold that look like? Decorating our smart phones and hanging them up, letting their charge run down?

The ‘Christmas’ tree, bringing greens into the house to decorate, caroling and feasting are all from pre-Christian times! What I have found increasingly wonderful is how the Advent and Christmas practices fit so well with these older traditions. In fact, it is no longer a secret that the actual birth date of the person Jesus was never recorded and that it was the medieval Catholic  Church that chose this  time of year to celebrate the birth of Christ in order to supplant the persistent ‘pagan’ practices of celebrating the winter solstice.

So I don’t mind why you celebrate this time of year, or whether you are a Christian or not. But I hope you do find ways to genuinely celebrate. I do hope that you are more aware of the actual season; more aware of the dark, the moon phases, the glittering stars… even the lights, the marvelous lit up houses and lawns! May your gift giving bring you joy, if that’s how you celebrate. May you rekindle friendships and family ties. May you sing together and feast together. May you sense the light returning, both physically and internally. May the image of the mother and baby kindle compassion and remind you of the deep love that is possible between all beings. And may you fall asleep on Christmas eve, longing for things to be right for everyone, everywhere, with all your heart- knowing that your heart will be broken the next morning, yet longing still.

Happy Solstice! Merry Christmas! And may justice and mercy reign!

How, Then, Shall We Live, In These Bleak Times?

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Surrender
All you thought you knew.
Stand your ground.
Build a new chamber of your heart.
“Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living”.

Wait, impatiently, if necessary.
Listen for guidance from within.
Listen again,
deeper
Wait expectantly for the Inner Teacher
to light your way.

Do something, anything:
Make a donation.
Join a cause,
Make a new friend,
one that makes you uncomfortable.
Fail
fail better.

Love yourself.
Build community-everywhere you go.
Watch for the Kin-dom,
notice where kindness shows up.
Ride on public transportation.
Give someone else your seat.
Take the seat offered you.

March, vote, cry, laugh
Love, love some more.
Hold someone’s hand.
Ask to be held.

Grow vegetables
Eat less, dance more.
Tell your friends you love them.
Love your neighbors
Need each other.

Let love flow through you
not from you
when the channel is open
Pray for this openness
for the love to flow even when there is no liking
those known
as enemies

Protect those you can.
Grow this capacity
be a sanctuary
build sanctuaries for
Muslims and Mexicans,
Indians, renegade cowboys
Veterans
those wounded
those wounded by killing
Let them breathe.

Breathe.

Start locally
build on what’s already there
build on capacities not seen before
make it easy to be good
Build up more than you tear down.

Remember
the arc of justice is long
longer than you think
and it bends toward justice.
Do justice.
Walk humbly.
Love mercy.

Surely, surely
goodness and mercy
will follow.

Come, Enter Expectantly into the Darkness

Come,  come all you who are weary and frightened,

come into the darkness

enter,

all who seek wholeness.

in this dark time

We feel the chill and danger–the bleakness of our world

as illusions crumble.

The dance of life seems to have led us 10 steps backward

the way forward obscured

the possibility of dancing at all called into question.

Come, come willingly into the darkness,

not the darkness of despair,

the darkness of the seeds waiting underground

the darkness of the earth’s womb.

Come, wait awhile, come rest awhile

allow  yourself to be bewildered

together.

Enter the darkness expectantly

hoping to be shown a way where there is no way

something new,  not yet born

allow yourself to receive the blessings of darkness

rest, comfort, solace

be prepared for the unexpected, unanticipated, unknowable…

Come, into the darkness

so we may bless one another

calling each other to ripeness

May our rage and grief

bodies bent over

be transformed into

kneeling

readiness to receive

as Mary did

the favored status of fire in our belly

Blessed be the warriors of love!

What comes next is beyond imagining

prolonged arduous, communal labor

birthing a more perfect union

a better failure

a confereation of peoples

a comonwealth of neighborhoods

a more perfect revelation of the Kin-dom.

Come, dear ones,

Enter expectantly into the darkness.

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