There’s a lot of talk about the true meaning of Christmas. Linus explains it to us by reciting the Biblical tale of Christ’s birth. Pagans, atheists and thinkers of many stripes remind us of the season’s ancient gods and revelry- seemingly forgotten, but still alive in our traditions. And my local meteorologist likes to point out the astronomical realities of the season...indeed, the rebirth of the sun.
So we argue about it. We debate the significance of secular images versus religious ones. We hotly protest the validity of any ideas besides our very own, some of us going so far as to whitewash the true origins of the season as to fit a personal agenda.
Then there are the popular stories. The good-natured man whose life of thwarted dreams spiraled into blackness, bringing him to attempt suicide on Christmas Eve. Then, saved by an angel, some remarkable perspective and the love of his neighbors, he learned that it really is a wonderful life. The miser who’d closed himself off to the warmth of the world, visited by three spirits who showed him the gravity of his missteps- and lo, he was born anew on Christmas Day. The misfit whose bright light was initially a cause of shame for himself and his family...until a dreary Christmas Eve found Santa Claus himself needing that misfit to light the way.
You guys seeing a common theme here?
What else, what else.
Well of course, there’s the story of a dark night for a young couple. No warmth or comfort would be granted, she’d have to birth her child in a manger among the ox and the sheep. And ‘neath a shining star, from out the depths of that young mother’s womb came the Light of the World.
Here we are, at the darkest time of the year. Here, there are no distractions. We come face to face with ourselves. With the harsh realities. With our pain. And if we have courage to face it all...to follow the spirits of past, present and future where they may lead...to find out the truth...to believe in ourselves...to have the courage to sit with the darkness, as black and disquieting as it may be...that we too may give birth to great light within our souls. Within our hearts. Within our world.
And after a few days without motion, when it looks as if the sun is stuck at its lowest depths in the sky...it too, will rise. Be born. Come alive. Redeem us again for another year, and rejoice in the seasons to come.
Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Yule, etc. If the year could be likened to a day, we are at that very moment when it is darkest before the dawn. May we all welcome the light.