The December solstice is less than tend days away. If you’re anywhere far from the Equator, the sun’s rays are important this week. For comrades like Katharine Liese in Johannesburg, South Africa, things looks very different from the way they do in North America, for example. Or our comrade Onyxe Antara in Thailand — boy, is she having a different experience from that of the US, Canada, and Europe, for sure.
A big snowstorm hit the southern US. Minnesota’s weather can’t decide what it’s doing, apparently, except for being really bloomin’ cold. Mushers in Alaska are practicing for big races. And here in Portland, Oregon, it’s been steely grey and raining off and on for weeks. Perfect, as far as I’m concerned.
However you experience the solstice, it’s worth noting. I’ll speak to the only way I know the December solstice, which is related to winter, the wan, slanting light, the cloudy skies and snow or rain. Most of all, it is a time of the close and holy darkness.
This year, solstice and Christmas are so tight in my mind. Why?
Because this whole period from US Thanksgiving on, is about how human beings need one another to survive. We need the warmth of one another’s breath, touch, and love. We need the light of care and tenderness. We need to be welcomed.
And we need to welcome.
I think of the church that has shown the family of Jesus of Nazareth in their “traditional” stable birthing location…yet surrounded by chainlink fence. Locked together, yet still together, unlike many of the families who were split apart and kept that way until very recently. One of our comrades, in fact, who would probably prefer I keep his humility more or less intact, was the head of the team who reunited over 2,600 children with their families. Eight children remain, and their cases have been taken up pro bono. Eight, of 2,600, and people working tirelessly, 16-to-18-hour days for weeks on end to make sure that families could be brought together.
The Rev. Fred Rogers (yep, he was a minister too!) suggested that we look at the helpers. That when bad things happen, to try to find the people who are helping in terrible times.
I see people like our comrade and his team.
I see the clergy who have stood in witness on the border, as well as those who have been working for transformation and reform in their own traditions and congregations.
I see people working to save wetlands and wildlife refuges–even as the Trump administration orders the destruction of a butterfly refuge near the southern border–water supplies, and forests.
I see some helpers.
Even in the darkness that doesn’t feel like the embrace of holy time, but feels rather like a clinging shadow, a sticky obscuring of our hopes and dreams, there are helpers.
And beyond that, we can be the helpers. We can welcome friends and neighbors. We can support organizations working for systemic change, as well as donating time and genuinely warm clothing in a season of cold and isolation. We can write and speak and call and march and offer sanctuary who are our most vulnerable families on Earth, human and otherwise.
So as the light continues to shrink and the dark closes in, I invite you not to be afraid. I invite you to create new traditions that celebrate connection and wellbeing. I pray your Hanukkah was blessed, your Yule full of renewed commitment in the brightness of new light, your Christmas reflective and marked by contemplation on what is demanded of a Christian life, and that your celebration of the Kwanzaa virtues reminds us of what we can do together in community that we cannot do alone.
And when the secular New Year comes, may the lengthening days bring us the strength to hold onto our determination, our life-giving routines, our work for others and for ourselves, and our care for Earth–She upon which all we have, believe, know, and experience depends.
Blessings, dear ones, blessings.