As I sit down to write this, I am still thinking about Tuesday night’s beautiful, moving, and uplifting Solstice Candlelight Service. It was quite well attended (we counted over 40 people in person and another 30 watching online!), the music was lovely, so many people participated with the various readings and such, and we had some wonderful fellowship around the hors d’oeuvres and dessert buffet table following the service. As we sang our traditional hymn, Peace, Peace, and held up our lit candles, I was struck by both the beautiful “togetherness” of it all, as well as by the deep meaning of these rituals involving light. It was a dark, cool evening, with rain forecasted, but there we all were, gathered together in our sweet little church on the hill, beautifully illuminated by 100 luminarias thanks to Paco’s efforts, on the longest, darkest day of the year…holding up a reminder for one another that the light always returns—indeed, that the light has never fully gone away but in fact is always present.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. -John 1:5
I thought about how these traditions and rituals involving light that take place in the deepest part of winter must have begun, millennia and millennia ago…..as our prehistoric ancestors shivered through the long nights of darkness—without electricity, heated blankets, central heat, or a modern understanding of astronomy—perhaps wondering whether the light would, in fact, ever return. For our forebears, these rituals must have served an invaluable purpose—the displays of light reassuring and reminding them that the darkness would not last forever, that the light would return, the seasons would turn and there would be warmth once again. This must have helped to keep their faith burning throughout the interminably long days and prevent them falling into a deep despair that could result in hopelessness, giving up, and death. In this way, the light rituals may have literally kept our ancestors alive.
We now understand the turning of the earth on its axis and its effect on daylight as the seasons change, but the reminder of the coming light is no less important. Today, as we find ourselves toward the end of the second year of the Coronovirus pandemic, we need these reminders of light as much as ever. These two years have been tough—really tough—for so many people. We have lost loved ones and friends, lost our previous way of life, adapted to one change after another, endured disappointment after disappointment…..and yet there we were Tuesday night, gathered together in our little church, telling stories, singing songs, laughing, sharing, eating and drinking, strengthening and deepening our bonds with one another, and reassuring ourselves and one another that the light will return. We struggled and grouched about singing through our masks and lamented our fogged-up glasses, but we were there….holding up our candles to light our own spirits, to lift up one another’s hearts, and to shine a light out into the world, just as we have always done.
I am proud of us—of you, of me, of Unity of Monterey Bay. Even as we grieve our losses and struggle to adapt to a changed world, we have never lost our faith—in ourselves, in each other, in our beloved community, in our God of Infinite Love. The candle may flicker, but the darkness does not overcome the light. What a blessed sight! What a blessed night! What a blessed community we share!
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas,