I once heard a sermon about Christmas which began with the overhearing of a conversation. The conversation was between two shoppers who happened to see a nativity scene in a shop window, “look, they try and put religion into everything these days.” The congregation laughed because obviously the shoppers had got it wrong and possibly missed the true meaning of Christmas. I wanted to throw up my hand and call out, “but, hang on!” The lovely Sharon tells me that this is not the done thing to do in church.

It is true that Christmas has been warped, twisted and crushed by consumerism. However, there is an even older meaning to what is now Christmas. Before Christianity, even before the paganism that Christianity shone a light on; there was a Christmas of sorts. All over Northern Europe there are old stones from a time before bronze and iron. Old stones placed in specific places to time out the year. Close to the cottage here, there is such a set of stones. Thousands of years ago the local people would have stood at the lower standing stone and stared up at the stone on the horizon and waited. They would have waited for the sunrise and on the solstice, tomorrow morning; they would have seen the sun rise at the stone on the edge of the hill. This was cause for celebration, for it marked the turning of the winter. From then on, the sun would begin to claw back at the dark nights, a little at a time. It was a time to break the strict rationing of resources and eat well. It was a time for families to gather together and share stories, laugh, sing and dance at firesides.

Winter Solstice by Henrik Djarv

Merry solstice everyone.

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