23 December 2012

Renew Your Spirit Sunday with light in the winter

Yesterday was the winter solstice. The longest night of the year. And today (which existed because the end of the Mayan calendar was not actually the end of anything except that particular calendar), marks the beginning of the return of light to the world. The days are starting to get longer again.

You know, that's something I love about winter holidays: the light.

In Christianity, Christmas marks the birth of Christ, bringing light and hope to the world. The Advent wreath (pictured to the right) is lit in preparation for the birth of Christ. The lights represent love, peace, joy and hope, which are brought by Christ's birth and ministry on Earth. Some Advent wreaths also have a white candle, which represents Christ, and is lit on Christmas Day.

According to the Bible, Christ's birth was marked by light in the form of a star guiding the shepherds and Magi to Bethlehem to welcome the little one.

In Judaism, Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights, celebrated with actual light in the form of the Menorah. In Jewish tradition, the story is told of the Maccabees who were to purify a Temple by burning ritual oil for eight days. There was only one day's worth of oil left in the Temple, but the menorah miraculously burned for eight days.

During Hanukkah, candles on a menorah are lit each day for eight days, representing the menorah that burned in the Temple. Hanukkah is really a minor holiday in the Jewish calendar, but has gained popularity because of how close to Christmas it falls.

And in Earth-based spiritual traditions, Yule (the winter solstice) is the celebration of the turn of the seasons, and light beginning to return to the days as spring approaches. It, too, is a festival of light. Many people burn a Yule log in their homes to bring light back into them, just as the solstice itself brings light back to the Earth.

I've seen adaptations of the Yule log in which it is a candle holder (similar to an Advent wreath) for homes that don't have a fireplace, but the intention is the same: to bring light into our homes and lives.

I need light in my life, especially with the transitions I've been going through over the last year. So even though Puck and Tink won't be home until closer to New Year's, I'm excited to celebrate winter with them, to bring light into our lives together, as a family.

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