In recent years I’ve begun to ‘celebrate’ the Winter Solstice, or at least mark it if celebrate is too strong a word. Certainly having got engaged with Celtic spirituality, with a strong earthy connection, I’ve taken more note of the seasons. Winter Solstice is the time when the sun in the northern hemisphere is furthest from the north pole, and it is a turning point…a time when the darkness comes to its darkest, and the path begins towards increasing light. A simple metaphor with a multiplicity of meanings.
Firstly, the solstice is so close to Christmas when we celebrate the one who became light in the darkness. I love that imagery of Jesus coming as light to the people and us, in turn, being lights to others. I remember how Jesus came into my darkness as a teenager and illuminated so many things. So, the celebration and light of Christmas shining just after the darkest of days is symbolism I get and that speaks to me.
Secondly, I note as my years continue, that I am less inclined towards frantic activity! I realise more fully that life is not meant to be lived at 110mph, and that in many ways, we’re all living wrong. The seasons have given shape to human activity for millennia, but here and now, with our electric lights and gas central heating, we just carry on as normal through dark, cold winters, when all of our forebears would change their rhythm, settle more indoors. They’d turn from spring-like/summer-like activism out in the fields or the sea, or wherever, to the comfort and safety of home and enjoy a sort of hibernation having stored up what they need. I realise we live in different times, but I also realise that our human nature has not evolved to deal with the change of pace we put ourselves through. We need to just stop it! The busyness! Let’s change gear a little, chill out a bit, spend more time indoors with those we love, doing fun things and enjoying the blessing of home. Or, at least, take time to nurture ourselves through winter months in whatever way works best for you.
Finally, I guess winter solstice has taken new meaning for me in my own personal experience of struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder. The thought that the days are beginning to get longer, just gives me a glimpse of hope on the horizon: something to watch for and move forward into. I’ve also taken to celebrating Candelmas/Brigidtide/Imbolc, a festival that celebrates the first inkling of spring. I simply find that my very human body and mind needs markers on the way to the warmth of spring and summer.
We all live, now, further away from the natural rhythms of the planet we inhabit. We abuse its resources, become detached from it, and I think we are heading into trouble as a civilisation. We no longer know how to grow food, live off the land, live with the seasons. As a consequence, our spirituality, certainly in the protestant tradition, doesn’t follow any pattern…wall to wall rejoicing doesn’t take into account the seasons of the soul, and certainly not any dark night of the soul which one might come into any time.
I’m content to let all that God has made and spoken into being be a teacher for my path, Christ firmly at the centre, and enjoying all there is to savour and appreciate. Life is too short for anything else!