With the turning of the seasonal tides I find myself reflecting on fresh starts and new possibilities. Jesus once said, “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” New beginnings are important. And it is important to begin with the future in the foreground, not the past.
A prayer by Harry Martin, which I offer in celebration of the southern winter solstice,
Jesus, Love, we seek your coming.
As your servants we join with all creation
in proclaiming your glory.
The winter barren trees look heavenward,
Anticipating the newness of life,
coming in the springs of your resurrection.
The soaring eagle lifts our hearts,
that with your holy angels,
we can climb the heights of your holy hills.
The whiteness of the fresh snow
refracts the light and beauty
that the call of your holiness brings to us.
Jesus, Love, our Creator King,
we rejoice at your coming,
and yet we sorrow.
Your Holy Word shines upon our path.
And we see…
Lives imprisoned and impoverished
Country sides crushed and ravaged by wars
where hate, pride and arrogance reign.
We see waters poisoned by neglect,
Birdsongs of praise stilled
by the corruption of need and want.
Creator King, we weep with the doe
seeking her fawn
crushed by the rush of human traffic.
We sorrow with the unborn child
who will never know,
the beauty of the daybreak.
We weep, coming King,
Because we fail to see and cherish,
the holy beauty and joy
of all life and creation you have made.
The Solstice is upon us. The sun has ventured down to the lowest point in the sky, bringing with it the shortest day and the longest of nights. It doesn’t get any darker than this. Since the Autumn Equinox back in September when we experienced the vitality and fruitfulness of nature’s finest mast year, the balance of power has been in the grip of the darkness. We have all experienced the chill of the drawing in of the nights and the gloom of the grey and misty morn.The rhythms of the natural world around us have ebbed, its energy returning to roots and trunks, or towards hibernation for those animals whose bodies observe this pattern of behaviour. Yet other life continues, the evergreen hope of the holly, ivy, pine, fir, cypress, cedar and yew; the sound of geese and other birds who migrate here in search of shelter and food from their harsh homelands. Life goes on, but at a slower pace than before.In all traditions, it is seen as a time of celebration, and rightly so, for on the Winter Solstice, the light will once more return, bringing along with it the warmth necessary to revive that which is dormant.In the story of certain traditions it is the time where the Winter Queen reigns, where the fight in the wyld wood between the giants of leaves, the Holly and Oak Kings comes to a head, and the dark Holly King surrenders his crown to the lighter Oak King, to rule once more from now until the Summer Solstice. We are reminded that in the darkness, light has always been present, fighting valiantly, so that even the smallest light can never be fully smothered by darkness, and we know the promised cycle of the seasons will continue as long as the earth endures. Hope remains in that promise, no matter how barren the landscape, the land will be reborn every spring. Some even tell the story of Yule and the birth of the Sun God at this time.In the Christ Tradition, it is a time for celebrating the incarnation of the Sun of Righteousness, the one of whom the ancient prophets spoke; the Divine Child of Promise, a child who brought hope, light and justice in a world of turmoil and darkness. His birth was announced in the skies in two ways. Firstly, a heavenly host of angelic beings to the lowest of the low, the shepherds in their fields at night, showing that the Divine is interested in those generally cast out by society. It was also announced by three triple conjunctions of the planets Venus, the mother, and Jupiter, the father, and the King Star, Regulus in the constellation of Leo, the Lion of Judah. It was an immutable sign, one which the ancient world marvelled at. Those in high places, who listened to the voices of the ancient prophets and opened their hearts to leading of the Eternal Spirit were moved to trek hundreds of miles in order to worship the Christ Child.Like the sun moving down from its high point at the Summer Solstice, to its lowest at the Winter Solstice, the Sun of Righteousness moved from the highest heavens to this earthly plane at his incarnation. And from the highest ranks of the Magi, to the lowest outcasts in the shepherds, the Divine calls all humanity into deep relationship, regardless of our background or past experiences.At this time where our very life breath becomes visible to us in the cold, may we give thanks for that breath each day, and may we seek the Light Eternal to illuminate our hearts, minds and spirits, that we too may walk in the light. May we remember that spell of the White Queen, that seeks to keep us ever in Winter, but never Christmas, has been broken so we can live in the hope of Immanuel, God with us.
A Prayer of Thanks for the Four Elements
(written by Talitha Arnold, with ideas from the Children of United Church of Santa Fe.)
A Prayer for Air:
We thank you, God, for the gift of air –
For cool breezes and brisk winds that refresh us,
For blue skies and crystal clear nights,
For the smells of every season—summer and winter, spring and fall. Most of all, we thank you for the air that gives us life.
You offer your Spirit to us with every breath we take. May we protect this gift that gives us life.
A Prayer for Water:
Thanks be for water
That sustains the life of animals, fish, and plants, That cleans our bodies and blesses our souls. For the water of tears that wash away our grief, For the water of slides, lakes, pools, and oceans where we can play and have fun.
Thanks be for water.
Your water gives us new life.
May we treasure that gift and share it with others.
A Prayer for Fire:
Thank you for fire and the many ways we can use it, to cook our food,
to sterilize and purify,
to smelt ore and form metal,
to warm our homes, and
to make the most of the electricity we have.
You light our way and enlighten our minds. May we be open to the fire of your Spirit.
A Prayer for Earth:
Thank you for the ground beneath our feet, Your good earth that gives life to all.
In a mystery we don’t understand,
green plants spring forth from your darkness. Canyons and mountains, plains and deserts show us your infinite imagination.
We thank you for this firm foundation
on which to build our homes and our lives.
May we always love this land as you love it.
May we care for this good earth that gives us such good life.
Summer and Winter
Dance joyfully around Earth
Singing YHWH’s song
From the “Australian Jesus” collection of Reg Mombassa. It reads, “Australian Jesus enters the city with a selection of spring vegetables: a bucket and a basket of kisses.”
In his second letter to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul blesses his readers with these words, “Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” May you similarly be blessed by our most faithful and forgiving God.
Spring has me thinking of the story of the sower. The artworks below illustrate the story from a variety of cultural perspectives. For those unfamiliar with the story, the Gospel of Mark retells it like this:
Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.” Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:18)
From the Old Testament book of Zechariah:
Ask YHWH for rain in the springtime;
it is YHWH who sends the thunderstorms.
He gives showers of rain to all people,
and plants of the field to everyone.