Last night was the Solstice, the real “reason for the season” if the truth would have it. The ancient European festivities surrounding Solstice made Christians adapt their liturgical calendar to the festivities, rather than the other way around. In fact, our Puritan ancestors made Christmas “illegal.” Puritan preacher Cotton Mather wrote “Can you in your Conscience think, that our Holy Savior is honoured by Mad Mirth, by long Eating, by hard Drinking, by lewd Gaming, by rude Revelling; by a Mass fit for none but a Saturn, or a Bacchus?” I always chuckle when I see the signs that say “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” because I know history reveals another story
The longest night holds a powerful sway on us humans, so sensitive to sunlight, so dependent on the sunlight not just for our moods, but for our crops, for our very survival. In the evenings leading up to Solstice, I take a little time to light candles, sip tea, and stare into the flames, thinking about for how many hundreds and hundreds of years we humans have done something similar at this time of year (at least in the Northern Hemisphere). We let the darkness embrace us and still ourselves around the warmth of flame.
I think my favorite UU hymn is #55 Dark of Winter by Shelley Jackson Denham. The hymn closes with these lines, which is my prayer for us all.
“Darkness, when fears arise, let your peace flow through me.”
This Saturday night, we are doing a shared Christmas eve service with our religious cousins, the College Ave Congregational Church. College Ave is a member of the United Church for Christ (UCC), the Christian denomination to whom UU’s are most closely related. In fact, there is a joke that UCC stands for “Unitarians Considering Christ.” Rev. Darcy and Rev. Michael Schiefelbein will lead this service of Lessons and Carols and communion will be offered for those interested.
Reminder: There will be NO worship service this Sunday December 25th.