Today carries the theme of death and rebirth.
There is a connection here to the winter solstice, when all is dark and the seeds of life sleep underground. In a time when the landscape is barren, the hope for a new tomorrow begins to grow.
There are many traditional cultural narratives around this play between night and day, struggle and salvation, despair and hope.
The wide variety of traditions we celebrate during the winter solstice are tied to this idea of surviving the shortest day and longest night. After this point in the year, each day is longer, giving more exposure to literal life-giving sunlight. After all, the sun is the source of our energy.
There are, of course, metaphors to be made between the long nights of winter and the “dark night of the soul,” a time of deep inner questioning and struggle to make sense of what life means in the context of a larger purpose. Many, many people have come face to face with that long dark night this past year.
I think there is the same fundamental symbolism in the Christian myth of Jesus and Mary preparing for Christ’s birth. Lost, wandering and alone, they sought to have their needs met both physically with shelter from the storm but also spiritually, hoping for a miracle of compassion from strangers.
Once Jesus and Mary are given shelter, and strangers have showed them love, hope is born. I am, of course, not Christian so I would take this myth a step past the Christian narrative in which salvation is received from an external source, be it God, Jesus, or the church. Most Christian narratives have their roots in pagan tradition, since the church sought to convert the pantheistic practices of other faiths to fit the beliefs their organization.
The tale of Christ’s birth is a myth that reflects a deeper knowing: just as the days shorten and hardships increase each year, so does the light of hope shine again each winter, giving us renewed energy to continue our journey toward a deeper understanding of ourselves and of humanity.
Salvation comes from our own acts of compassion and mercy, both toward others but primarily toward ourselves. We do not need to seek the validation of anyone else to be worthy of love. And we need to make decisions that allow others the space to heal, as well.
Life is a continual cycle of death and rebirth. Everything from our ideas to our very cellular structure has a shelf-life. As we participate in this continual pattern of planting, growth, harvest, as rest, let us recognize that both hardship and hope have a place in our journey on earth.