Off we go trailing shopping lists and credit card receipts. Hanukah and now Christmas. We may complain about our errands, but we do enjoy the brightness the holidays bring to our gray December days.
It’s no coincidence. The holidays that celebrate light, Hanukah and Christmas, are aligned with the seasonal transit of the sun. It’s a leftover from earlier times when the religions of nature led all of the others. There was good reason, then as now, to run from the darkness.
In recovery we are also moving from darkness to light. We have a similar transit. We leave our pink clouds of early recovery and journey through stages of longer recovery that takes us from darkness to light and to darkness again--as real life inevitably unfolds.
Spirituality is a way out of darkness and into hope and joy. Just like the ancients our holiday transit is full of mystery and miracle, whether it’s oil that lasts eight days or the birth of a baby in a barn.
But we still fear the dark. Much of what we do this time of year is about distraction. Not unlike whistling when we pass a graveyard, now we sing and shop and light candles and eat too much. And we complain. A lot. But maybe our railing against holiday chores is itself a part of the solstice. Now when we are oppressed by darkness--when our primitive fears can be felt even through layers of advertising and anti-depressants--we are drawn to lights, and to other people, just as our ancient relatives were drawn to stars and fires.
The words of this Christmas carol could just as well be a recovery song: Yet in the dark street shineth, the everlasting light; the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
Maybe there is another way to experience this time of year. What if we allowed the darkness and went toward it, daring ourselves to sit still before we light the candles or the tree. What if we sat a moment and just breathed. That’s what the December holidays are about. We can enter the darkness and emerge transformed. It is what we learn in long recovery: Whatever it is, we can
This week is Christmas and solstice. The sun is at the most southern point of its transit. Now the days will grow longer again. The cycle is astronomical and holy. On this night we are as ancient as ever.