The Reason for the Season

The Reason for the Season December 16, 2007

Well, we made it.

Our wise (if sardonic) head usher observed this could be taken as a test to see how many members of the congregation are crazy. Almost thirty people ended up showing up at Sunday worship. You may draw your own conclusions…

At the heart of the service Catherine Senghas, our intern minister, reflected on the nature of Solstice. She made several points. One that particularly stuck in my mind was how while we often think of solstice as a day, it is in fact a moment. A moment where everything that has been extending relentlessly in one direction, in this case toward the dark, stops just for a fraction of a heartbeat, and then begins to swing in a new direction.

A lot might be found in reflecting on that fraction of a heartbeat…

But another thing occurred to me. Perhaps revealing I also had wet feet and was a little, just a little grumpy. This year seems to have seen some receding of that hubbub of the last few years where some of the more conservative Christian community were complaining bitterly about merchants and others using the phrase “happy holidays.” With all the unpleasantness of majorities complaining about being put upon when someone is trying to make sure to be kind to those not in the majority, this bellyaching had a putrid stench about it…

Their assumptions, of course, is that the Winter holidays are all about the birth of Jesus, and just because there are Jews and Buddhists and others around who also have Winter holidays, to make a general statement rather than to say “Merry Christmas” was one more example of secularist conspiracies against them. A hard argument to sustain when you have somewhere between eighty and ninety percent of the population…

Unseemly, is the kindest word I can think of regarding this bit of self-righteous indignation.

Living here in Massachusetts where the theocratic Puritan government banned Christmas because as scholarly types they noticed it certainly wasn’t scriptural (one might reasonably infer from the very passing references that the nativity could have been in the Spring), and how history showed Christmas was in fact an attempt to “christianize” the Saturnalia, a straight ahead pagan holiday.

Those Puritan divines and their government saw quite clearly the origins of the season were pagan responses to the darkness turning toward light.

Me, as a Unitarian Universalist Buddhist, proud of my Christian roots, and more than a little pagan around the edges of a deeply rationalist core; I’m glad we try to attend to several of these seasonal responses, Jewish, Buddhist, Christian and pagan in our liberal churches. And, I want to add, glad that my Unitarian fore bearers in the nineteenth century re-introduced, or rather, introduced Christmas to New England. (He notes modestly…)

And, I’m glad I made it to church today where that pagan origin of the season was observed and celebrated.

And glad to be reminded in that reflection on the slide into darkness, that precious pause, and then a turning toward the light, as the real reason for the season…


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