It is no coincidence that the early church leaders moved the observance of the birth of Jesus from the summer to the winter, and specifically to coincide and compete with the pagan observance of the Winter Solstice. While the motive of the church is suspect (to eradicate the pre-Christian beliefs and ceremonies), they accidentally brought greater power and meaning to the observance of the coming of the Christ.
The gospel of Luke presents a stark and bitter picture of the circumstance surrounding the birth. We have the pregnant mother and attending father traveling a long distance at the order of the government. They are living under the harsh occupation of Roman governors and soldiers. The must take refuge in a barn because the usual doors of convention and tradition are closed to them.
We could compare our circumstance to theirs. Our country is in the midst of the darkest economic recession since the Great Depression. Our leaders are lost in directionless bickering and barking, greedily hoarding the empty comfort found in material strength and money. The neediest of our citizens are also the most neglected, while many of the wealthy and powerful work only to feather their own nest.
It is portentous that much of the country has been blanketed by snow and cold this holiday season; we have deeply felt the darkness, and into that void we experience now the coming of the light; that is the promise of Christmas. To paraphrase: "the light surrounds us, the love enfolds us, the power protects us, the presence watches over us." If we did not have the darkness we could not fully appreciate the light; so now we bless the darkness; now we are thankful for the experiences and circumstances that brought sadness and difficulty to our lives. Kahil Gibran writes that sorrow comes to burrow out a pit in our lives that then becomes a container for joy. The more heartbreak we experience, the more capable we are of holding happiness.
The gospels give us a Jesus who must grow into his Christhood. He is born with the same capability as us all, but he shows us the very real possibility of regaining our true selves. It is my best Christmas wish for you all that you grasp the spark of God within you, and become what you are meant to be.
Bring us a new year clearly
Bring it quickly and dearly
Fly your truth into our eyes
And fill the sky with white.
(The photo is a picture of Sedona taken this Christmas week.)