When my eldest daughter was a little girl, she saw an elf in the Christmas tree. I remember when she came to tell me about it, convinced that she had seen something. I didn't try to rationalize her experience. Who was I to say she hadn't seen something?
Certainly, by this time I had experienced enough "supernatural" events in my life to know that what we perceive as real is, well, real. Now, I am certain that some readers will be non-believers and others will be true believers in the supernatural. Some will differentiate between the "imaginary" supernatural of a spirit world of ghosts or that of elves and faeries and what they will deem the "real" supernatural of God, angels, and even demons.
However, I would challenge anyone who believes that one set of supernatural beings or events are real and others are not to consider the inconsistency of such a standard.There is much more to this world than what the physical eyes perceive, and there is sometimes more Truth in what we perceive intuitively than in what we have been taught is substantive.
Christmas time is often a time of mixed messages. Many Christian parents tell their children about Santa and his elves while also celebrating a traditional Western-European style Christmas and attending church on Christmas Eve to celebrate the birth of the Baby Jesus. Other Christians eschew the traditions of a Dickensian Christmas and declare that we must all remember "the reason for the season," which they deem to be solely the birth of God incarnate.
While I respect this perspective, I find myself often thinking (sarcastically) that, no, the reason for the season is the tilt of the Earth's rotational axis away from the sun. I don't mean any disrespect when I think this, of course. However, as an Interspiritual Priest, I must acknowledge that this time of the year is not solely about the birth of Jesus. It is about all of the holy days and various stories of the many festivities that take place around this time. It is about rejoicing in the hope of light after the great darkness of the longest night.
For each of the many religions and cultures that have holy days around this time, the stories and traditions are very real to those who celebrate them. Yet, each of them might easily consider the traditions of others to be less real than their own. Generally, Christians see Jesus as either the unique Son of God or the one God incarnate.
Many progressive Christians see Jesus as an embodiment of a Way of life desired by God rather than a Being more divine than any of the rest of us; rather, they might see him as an individual who became more than human by making choices that led him to live the Way of Love, even unto death. On another hand, non-Christians often see him as anything from a Wisdom Teacher to a Prophet, a Good Man, or a faerie tale.
Yet, at this time of year, there is one thing we might all agree on. In the hustle and bustle of daily life, whether it is the general business of the whole year or the wild and crazy business of secular holiday preparations, we all need a time when we can focus on joy. This is a rough time for many, for as the days grow short, the nights long, and the temperature colder (at least here in the northern hemisphere); it is easy to allow ourselves to become overwhelmed by sadness, grief, and the knowledge that another year has passed without us fully achieving our dreams.
Right in the midst of our darkest night, our traditions celebrate the coming light. We celebrate miracles of lamp oil lasting longer than it should have, of principals for living well, of a newborn savior, of the coming of spring, of the triumph of light over dark. We celebrate the miracle of giving generously and receiving graciously. We celebrate the spirit of gift giving in the person of a jolly Santa with eight reindeer delivering gifts on Christmas Eve night, a Norse Odin flying through the air on an eight legged horse leaving gifts in boots set by the hearth at Yule, a Yule Goat delivering gifts, or even the Italian Befana, a kind ugly witch who rides on a broomstick leaving gifts for children on Epiphany Eve.
You see? Mixed messages and supernatural happenings. Yet, it is all in good fun, good faith, and good fellowship! Did my daughter see an elf in the tree all those years ago? Maybe.Whether she saw an elf, something else, or nothing, that sighting has become a part of the narrative around our Christmas celebrations. It has become as real as her experience when she was three years old.
Whatever holiday you celebrate at this time of year, may you find joy in the tales and the traditions. May you find joy in knowing that after the darkest night, there will be a dawn.
|Read the Yule blog at the St. Brigid in the Desert UAIC website.|