Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter solstice

Some days I let my limbus rule--the solstices fall in this category.
I love Christmas, and I love the Christmas story.

Still, the story predates Christmas (if not Christianity), and the story told today has been adulterated.

Not sure straightening out a few myths by referring to the source of the myths counts as science, but it's a good lesson in looking at sources, and the solstice gave me a good excuse to drag out a globe in class to explain the seasons.

(And no, we are not farther from the sun this time of year--we will be as close as we get in about two weeks.)

The Christ was not born in the winter.

The Wise Men were not at the manger.

The current version of Christianity is not in danger of extinction. It has the strength of the United States military behind it. Just ask Mr. Obama, General McChrystal, or the children of Chowkar-Karez .

The Christ did not tell Constantine to put the cross on the shields of his soldiers before his battle against Maxentius. Constantine may have believed this, but it is our shame that we accept a myth utterly contrary to His words.

We move with energy from the sun, our mass built from the breath of the life before us. Carbon dioxide and water and sunlight play with a few strands of DNA. We are special, but no more special than the yeast that taught Jesus how to make wine.

Christian privilege is real. Try greeting a Transportation Security Administration agent with "Assalaamu Alaikum".

These are the shortest days of the year in this neck of the woods. Life needs sunlight, and the light is dying. The longest night of the year looms.

The sun will return.

Merry Natalis Solis Invicti--the real reason for the season. The sun starts its inexorable journey northward, and those of us who survive the winter will be saved again, as we have since before we could speak.

And that is reason enough to celebrate.


Unknown said...

I kept thinking similar thoughts yesterday when I got an angry e-mail about the CHRIST in CHRISTmas and I kept thinking that the Jesus story wasn't built around yelling.

I know that our Christmas traditions are based upon "pagan" traditions. Some say Celtic, others Norse, others Roman - I think it's a pretty cultural universal that the solstice belongs to the earth and not even to humanity.

She gave us a first true day of winter. It's about as good as you can ask for in Phoenix - gray skies, a chilling wind. Everything feels more magical, though.

For what it's worth, I like the syncretism. I love the Jesus story and the solstice story. I believe both of them and sometimes that gets me into trouble - either with those who want to point out to me all the inaccuracies in public perception (yes, I know there were multiple wise men and they were not there when he was born - we can't limit it to three, true all of our traditions go back to pagan origins) or with those who want to turn the holiday into something exclusive and divisive.

The beauty of the syncretism is that it's pretty universal - whether it's in the face of a newborn or the gray in the sky - it's a time when the whole universe and the Unknown itself seems to be vanishing and vulnerable with the vague hope that new life is around the corner.

doyle said...

Dear John,

You have (again) nestled a lovely post within a comment, and I love what you say here.

I did not know the word "syncretism"--a wonderful word.

Always a joy to see your words here.