Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it! And to the others out there, Joyous Yuletide, Happy Hanukah, Feliz Navidad, Blessed Bodhi Day, and I'm sure I missed some. May the holy day which you celebrate be full of love and laughter, joy and family.

This year, I celebrated Christmas as a burgeoning Christian. Don't panic; I'm not giving up my gods in the least. Hecate and Dionysos, Aescelpios and Nyx and Persephone, Hades, Hestia, Zeus and Hera are all still vastly important to me. I am Hecate's priestess, and will never give that up. She is my Lady, and always will be. However, last Christmas I had an epiphany of sorts (that's a joke, btw), and I had a somewhat mystical experience with Jesus in the Sanctuary of the church.

I've learned over the years not to ignore god calls, even when they seem really odd to me. The sum of my experience would be, "Jesus, why are you calling ME? You've got thousands of followers. Why me??!" and the answer, "Because you can." Can't argue that.

So last night when I went into the Sanctuary for our Christmas Eve service, I went in not as an outsider but as one of the congregation. I admit, there's something lovely about people grabbing you and hugging you, and taking time to say Merry Christmas, and then whispering, "...and happy Yuletide to you, too!" They cared enough to reach out to me, and to meet me half way. My heart was as full as it's been in months, last night. As I watched the people arrive, I was shocked to see every pew filled. I've never seen it so full!

As the opening carol was sung, as everyone stood and raised their voices in harmony, there was such a feeling of rising love, of energy unbounded, of joy amidst the realities of the sorrows and griefs of the world. No one there pretended the darkness didn't lurk outside somewhere, but it was put aside for an hour, while we shared together in a communion of souls.

I have begun to understand a bit about the mysticism of Christianity. I've had a fascination with it for ages, since I was about 17 or 18. I love the "smells and bells" of Catholicism, for instance, even though it definitely isn't MY tradition. I read the Gnostic texts with great interest a number of years ago, and have studied the Gnostic beliefs over the past 20 years. It begins to come together, thanks to my seminary training and the Christians I have come to know and love.

Last night, we celebrated the god become man. Those of us who follow the Greek and other pagan beliefs might think that sounds quite UNmiraculous for the time period, and to a certain extent it's true. There were many examples of parthenogenesis between two and three thousand years ago. The gods produced half-breed offspring like rabbits, if we follow the myths as fact (which I do not, btw).

Jesus, Emmanuel, though, is different. He is not God. He is not Man. He is not offspring of God and Man, either. He is God become Man, fully both, completely and wholly. He came into the world the same way any of us does, via the division of cells and the growth of child in womb. How the child got there is part of the Mystery, but honestly doesn't really matter. I'm sure the gods are capable of using human agents when necessary, but that does not detract from the divine nature of the child.

He was born, whether in a manger or a barn or a cave (depending on the version of the myth you follow)  doesn't matter, either. He was born, just like you and I, through the process of labor, squeezed through the birth canal of a young woman only recently old enough to bear children. Unlike young women today, she probably had a good idea of what she'd be going through; women attended other women during birthing then, and they saw humans and animals laboring and birthing long before it was an issue of reproduction for themselves. Still, how frightening to be without her parents, just with a young man not yet her husband in the eyes of the law.

He fed at her breast, just as other infants. He played, just as other toddlers. He had to learn to walk and talk, to throw a ball and play games, to perform a trade just as other children and young men. He grew in stature and power, a good man with humble beginnings. He didn't start his ministry until he was about 30 years old, which means from age 14 to 30, he probably worked with his father or some other man nearby, earning a living and doing what other men of his age were doing. He might have had an inkling of who and what he was (certainly by the time of the wedding at Canaan), but he took those early years to just BE a man. Even the unofficial stories are few and far between.

Yet always, inside that strong male exterior, the god lurked. His divinity was hidden, wreathed in the flesh of his mortal body, but it was still there. It was there the day he was born, the day that his mother gathered him into her arms and held him at her breast and gazed at his pinched and wrinkled face. Could she hear the god voice as he squalled the mortal, truly infant sound of a young baby? Did it matter in the least?

Whether you celebrate the birth of the Sun or the Son (or both, as I do), this is a holy time of year. Midwinter is with us, and the bleak, dark days are on us. Snow flies, cold nips at us, and the windows fog with ice. But there is always the Divine, in whatever form or by whatever name you call. The Light comes back to us at this dark time, bringing hope to a black and often sorrow filled place.

May that Light be born within you. Eternally, the Light comes back, year after year, and yet is always with us, too. Welcome the Light into your home, into your heart, into your life. Embrace it with all your being. Let your soul be bathed in it, cleansed, purified, opened to the wonders of the world.

Merry Christmas to all.
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