Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, happy solstice and happy Sunday! May this day be full of beautiful things for you.
Though I was raised in a Christian home and go to church from time to time and on most high holidays, what I love about this time of year is the rich imagery about light that we can see when we are open to various spiritual traditions.
The winter solstice has just passed. We are now moving into longer days, which to me is a welcome relief. As one who loves to jump around on stage singing "I am a flower", I have an affinity with warmer weather and lots of sunlight! The solstice marks the longest night and shortest day of year, when the sun's greatest height in the sky is at an all time low, a phenomenon most affecting northern countries. The turn towards longer days was celebrated by our ancestors as it meant that the challenges of winter, that often brought death and starvation, were soon to be lessened.
At this time of year, Jewish people celebrate the miracle of light through the eight days of Hanukkah, a festival also known as The Festival of Lights. Hanukkah commemorates the Maccabean Revolt and reclaiming of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which under the rule of Roman Emperor Antiochus IV (2nd century BCE), Jews were forbidden to attend. When the victorious Maccabees found a small jug of uncontaminated oil in the temple, only enough to light the Menorah for one day, the oil miraculously lasted for eight days, by which time more oil could be made. This holiday reminds us that light comes when we turn our hearts towards the Divine and enter the world of the sacred, the temple of worship. I enjoyed listening to the song "Miracle" performed by the Maccabeats (originally by Matisyahu), for those of you who are into pop versions of spiritual wisdom, which does it for me. The song is featured on the group's home page: http://www.maccabeats.com/
In the present day, Santa Claus, aka Saint Nicholas, a gift-giving character originating in Greek and Byzantine folklore, by far takes the stage for this day in North America. It is interesting to know that December 25th was historically marked by Julius Caesar (around 50BCE) as the date for the annual winter solstice celebrations in Rome. Early Christians (around 350AD) later appropriated the pagan solstice festival as the date to celebrate newfound light their way, this time as embodied by the birth of the Christ child.
When we move beyond Christmas folklore and settle into the spiritual meanings it brings, we notice that the light of the Divine, as symbolized in the birth Jesus, was born in a manger in and among shepherds and animals. This reminds us that the Divine is born through the innocence of a child, in purity and humility as one among us. Over the course of my blog entries, I have shared how I feel that the foundation for spiritual practice is humility, the simple, grounded, non-resistant acknowledgement that what is, is. No fancy excuses. No big stories. Just what is. The Christmas story reminds me of this simple and profound wisdom.
We are here, on this planet, amidst the beauty and imperfections of it all. We each carry inner light that can shine and cast shadows on the ground. As the little child who was born in a manger shows us, when we humbly surrender to the immensity of this human experience, we see that we are one with it all: the animals, the shepherds, the wise, the angels, the earth, and the stars. When we are willing to live with the innocence of a child and open to our purity with sincerity in our being, we enter the realm of the Divine. The Christmas story tells us that through the gateway of innocence, purity and humility we find the Divine.
Today, on this Christmas day, no matter what tradition you do or do not celebrate, consider the birth of light in your life. Consider cultivating innocence, experiencing things with openness and freshness rather than with anticipation, expectation and pre-judged ideas. Consider softening to life, rather than hardening to it. Consider being receptive, as a child is receptive to the newness and wonder of life. Consider the interconnections between yourself and all things, the way we are all in the mess of it all and guided by the shining light in the heavens, a light that reflects our inner light. Today, this Christmas, consider finding the light within yourself and through all things. I offer a guided meditation in Parvati Magazine on how to do just that.
When we are willing to open to this moment with innocence, purity and humility, we find the Divine Light of pure consciousness. There we meet the child of God that we all are. We enter into our temple of prayer and reclaim the miracle of lasting light, our birthright. Then we experience the fullness of light in every moment, and everyday, through all things.
May you enjoy this day and every day. Happy illuminating!
PS: Please go to Parvati Magazine for more juicy articles by people who live, love and serve in their various fields to help you live a life in the positive possibilities. Lots of jewels there! My next post will be next Sunday. Have a wonderful week.