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Personal & Spiritual Development, Holiday

Pause to Appreciate the Nurturing Dark

“If you are going to meditate by candlelight, do not hurry to light the candle,” wrote John Marsh in his meditation “With or Without Candlelight.” This gentle suggestion seems especially appropriate for December, when nights grow long and we rush to light the lights to hold back the darkness. It takes an act of will to resist the frenzy of the winter holidays and all that leads up to them. It takes an act of will to hold back the hand from the matchbox, allow a pause in which to appreciate the nurturing dark, and then light the candle.

Although I do not consider myself Christian, I do love the season of Advent and lighting the candles on the Advent wreath. There are four candles in the wreath plus one in the center. As the nights grow longer in December, you light one more candle each week. Each candle can symbolize a core value in life, such as Love, Peace, Beauty, Wonder. Each week you get to meditate upon that value. On Christmas, you light all four candles plus the center candle.

The winter holiday that is most meaningful to me is Winter Solstice. At home, I construct a solstice wreath and use a book of readings to center me each week. I also like to sing the song by Mary Grigolia called “The Dark” to remind myself of the importance of accepting both the gifts of darkness and its challenges. Here are the lyrics to the chorus:

“Oh, the darkness takes courage, the darkness takes time. Living in the darkness brings a different state of mind. The darkness brings healing, the darkness brings change. Oh, Mother Darkness, I return to you again.”

May we find a way to appreciate the dark in this season of frenzied celebration. The holiday lights are beautiful only because they can be seen in the darkness. As is the candle that you light.

Rev. Dena McPhetres, Associate Minister


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