Last night I drove two and a half hours each way to join in a Winter Solstice Celebration at the Serpent Mound in Ohio. About a thousand of us showed up to light hundreds of luminaries outlining the curvy mounds. We witnessed a beautiful sunset, waxing gibbous moon in the sky, and rows and rows of glittering candles.
As I was driving there, I wondered what was compelling me to do this. What was compelling me to drive solo all this way to honor the return of the light? I realized it was the same kind of drive that will compel me to go to a Christmas Eve Service at 11:00 at night at a church I don’t normally attend to honor a different kind of light.
What compels us to engage in these rituals and ceremonies? I believe we are all seeking meaning and connection in our lives.
By now most of us know that Jesus was not actually born on Christmas. The birth of Christ was not celebrated at all until more than 300 years after Jesus’ death. Rumor has it than church leaders saw the festivities of Hanukkah and the Winter Solstice in December and decided to create their own celebration during that time of year. But are all these celebrations really that different?
While driving to Serpent Mound, I realized all three celebrations have two things in common: miracles and light.
The menorah of Hanukkah is lit partly to memorialize a miracle that happened over two millenniums ago. Legend has it that after Jews took back a temple that had been taken from them earlier, they rededicated the temple by burning untainted oil in a candelabrum. There was enough oil for one day, so they sent someone to find more. When he returned with more oil eight days later, the candles were still burning.
We know the Christmas story is packed with miracles from the angel’s visit to Mary to the virgin birth to the Wise Men following a star of light in the sky that lead them straight to Jesus.
And of course Winter Solstice allows us to witness a miracle year after year. Just when it seems we are covered in darkness, the light returns little by little one day at a time.
Perhaps these rituals and ceremonies help us to hold onto hope that miracles really do exist and that our lives are filled with light.
This holiday season I pray that Winter Solstice will remind you that the light will always return (even when it seems the world is in darkness), that Christmas will remind you that the light will be your guide, and that Hanukkah will remind you that the light will remain with you against all odds.
I pray this time of year will encourage you to take notice of the little and big miracles that surround your life every day. Also, I hope this season will help you to see that we really are not that different, no matter what holiday we celebrate.
I believe we are all seeking meaning and connection in our own different ways. Create your own rituals. Join in with others in ceremony. Allow love to be your light. May you have a beautiful holiday season filled with miracles and light.