Monday, December 22, 2014

Winter Solstice

We celebrated the Winter Solstice with a feast and fire at the beach. It was a beautiful night with friends and family. After dinner we gathered around the fire for a ritual to say goodbye to the old year and welcome the new. If you are developing a Solstice ceremony, it is nice to see what others do. I gathered some prayers from online. Below is the text that we used.*

During Advent, we are called to settle into the exquisite darkness, to hibernate, rest and restore. This cycle was given to us at the Beginning. For years upon years, generations celebrated the changing of the seasons. At the winter solstice when the darkness shrouded the world and daylight waned to but a few grim hours, families and tribesmen would venture out into the bleak and bitter cold winter to harvest the yule log. They’d light it afire, beckoning the return of the sun on the darkest day of the year

We are invited to face the darkness in our own lives and in the world around us. The prophets assure us that the darkness will not overcome us. They call us to watch for the light, notice the Light, and be warmed by its rays. We are called to wait, to hope, to trust in promises made. As we make this Advent journey, we claim we come alive in both the light and the darkness. 

There is a winter in all of our lives, a chill and darkness that makes us yearn for days that have gone or put our hope in days yet to be. Seasons are created for a purpose. Spring is full of expectation, buds breaking, frosts abating and an awakening of creation before the first days of summer. The sun gives warmth and comfort to our lives, reviving aching joints, bringing color, new life and crops to fruiting. Autumn gives nature space to lean back, relax and enjoy the fruits of its labor, mellow colors in sky and landscape as the earth prepares to rest. Then winter, cold and bare as nature takes stock, rests, unwinds, sleeps, until the time is right. 

An endless cycle and yet a perfect model. We need a winter in our lives. A time of rest, a time to stand still. A time to reacquaint ourselves with the faith in which we live and breathe. It is only then that we can draw strength from the one in whom we are rooted, take time to grow and rise through the darkness into the warm glow of springtime, to blossom and flourish, bring color and vitality into this world. 

From the rising of the midwinter moon,
may darkness and light dance together, O Shining One.

In this season, make us short on grumpy thoughts,
long on sharing of words of gentleness.

Make us short on being rushed,
long on attentiveness.

Make us short on seeing what’s right before us,
long on peering into the horizon.

Make us short on out-of-control to-do lists,
long on savoring kindness.

Make us short on overlooking the dark sky,
long on gazing at the twinkling stars.

Make us short on tradition as a habit,
long on re-owning and re-creating.

Make us short on ignoring the hungry,
long on making a delicious meal. 

Make us short on rushing,
long on wondering and pondering.

Make us short on walking past those sleeping in the cold,
long on sharing blankets and hot tea.

Make us short on longing for what’s next,
and long on savoring the darkness.

Leave Behind
It is a time to think of something you wish to leave behind. Once you know what you want to leave behind, throw the leaf into the fire.

Hope for the Year Ahead
Our next leaf symbolizes wisdom and all that we hope for in the year ahead. Take a moment and think of the positive things you wish to focus on in the year ahead, then thrown in the leaf.

May the sun, moon and stars glow on you like a great fire.
May you rest and hibernate in the exquisite darkness.
May you and the whole of the planet be yoked to new life through God’s holy light and holy darkness.

Ring the Bells
Close the ceremony with a ringing of the bells.
*Much of this comes from Exquisite Darkness: A Winter Solstice Liturgy created by Ashley Goff and Rob Passow, Church of the Pilgrims (PCUSA) in Washington, D.C.

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