Christmas – Celebrations of heart and hearth

Reflections at Christmas : Welcoming divine Light of heart and hearth.

Christmas- a time to celebrate the birth of Christ himself a symbolic divine and spiritual son to ignite the presence of sun within our own hearts, as, following winter solstice and three days of stationary stillness ( sol-“stice” just like armistice – the stillness or pause in armed warfare ) : if we choose to notice, we may bear witness a Return of the Light – both spiritually and physically within ourselves as within nature. This can include an emotional sense of movement, of promise, hope and expansive possibility, invitation and lightness.

It is the same Light that penetrates as hearts break open to receive and affirm familial bonds of love, friendship and kindness in homes and communities : through gratitude and gift giving, sharing and socially affirmed caring.

Of course, there is the Christmas sugar-boost factor and the light headedness that comes from whiskey, wine, guinness and other relics of Christmas cheer – but that is not what we are pointing at here.

The functions and effects of Light itself are many including radiation, illumination, invitation, guidance, nourishment – sustainence and warmth…

To shine our own light is to imply not that we ourselves are the Light but that the light within us – the spiritual source of Life itself – does not have its origins in us but rather that it shines through and with us. Rather than being a vague and wooly phenomenon – this is in fact a physical fact that you too may have experienced – is there something that “warms the cockles of your heart”?

“I am the light of my soul, I am bountiful, Beautiful. I am bliss, I am, I am.”

The organ that is most in tune with this time of year is of course the heart. Extending through the hands, and the gifts that we give, or embracing a loved one or reaching up for a better vision and version of ourselves as we face into a new year with all the promise, uncertainty and possibility that entails – we nourish our heart of hearts.

The heart is also associated with the constellation of Leo and the figure of the lion. C.S. Lewis, celebrated author of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe series of books was inspired by his homeland in Co. Down, Ireland, where the scenery of the Mourne mountains marked out his environment of his books. Artist, Ross Wilson, who created the sculpture of C.S. Lewis that now stands outside Hollywood road Library in Co. Down sought to ‘capture the great ideas of sacrifice, redemption, victory and freedom for the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve’ that lie at the heart of The Chronicles of Narnia. The popular character of Aslan the Lion is a symbolic representation of the archetypal Christ energy. Aslan is wise, he is mighty and he is royal. C. S. Lewis was also inspired by the literary contemporaries of the Celtic Revival, W. B. Yeates and Lady Gregory.

The figure of Christ invites us into initiation with our own sovereign regal nature too – where the qualities of nobility, of patience. of wisdom, fortitude, courage and reverence – are promoted and honoured.

For many, this time can be a lonely one – a time of poignant memory and of pining for loved ones lost. This may be a time of plenty, but materialism may weigh heavy on our hearts if it feels to be rooted in a separation, in a compulsive performance of generosity rather than heart-felt tokens of care. Just as in life, that which is extraneous and vestigial, unnecessary clutter to our key and vital needs, desires, passions can impede our growth. The child surrounded by gifts cannot choose where to begin – in the absence of self knowledge, every item a loud parade of invitation – inscribing an equivalent seeming claim to attention and importance.

In my own life story there has been much to grieve, much chaos and drama. The passing of years have restored some sense of self and rooted safety as I have endeavoured to build for myself an inhabitable island upon which to dwell within a sea of the sometimes tumultuous emotion, uncertainty and pain that I am committed to transforming and to heal in my own heart.
I am grateful for all that I have experienced and now I can see that the great depths of emotion and sensitivity I carry are also what make me human – and, perhaps more able to feel for others in their story. I can acknowledge an innocence and naivety too that helps me to err on the side of light heartedness and affirm joy, and yet, in excusing or accommodating the behaviour of others I must be careful not to simply deny my own pain. Jumping too soon towards positivity & forgiveness would be a spiritual bypass, denying the opportunity to wrestle and engage with the real stuff at the root of transformation, uncomfortable though that may be.

When Christmas comes around I remember the father of my child, who we have not seen for many years, I think of family members who died before their time, I am reminded the great untold stories and injustices that may never be fully known. To have the courage to own our grief, to say without emotion or self-reproach or indulgence and to simply accept the facts ; “yes, that happened to me”. That brings a possibility of integration and relief through self compassion. Self-compassion says that yes, this happened to me – or, yes “I did that”. It is also the willingness to listen to the still small voice that tells us when our feelings are in fact hurting, rather than being a softness it is also the source of a firm commanding protective spirit – the capacity to stand up for ourselves at times where we are not receiving the care and nourishment that we may need.

Courage includes the word for heart – the french word “coeur”. En-cour-age is to encourage, is to bring oneself into the inexhaustible reserves of those heart reservoirs : assuming that the fire of our hearts have been stoked , assuming that our “heart-walls” have been cleared sufficiently to allow a healthy flow of energy to this vital organ in the centre of our chest – the centre point of our vision and cauldron of heart-feeling and imagination.

There are times when our courage brings with it that fire – outwardly radiating our purpose and our vision for ourselves. As we share this moment of Christmas whether it is a busy time with family and friends, alone at home, at a retreat space or on holiday in the sun – we each in our own way have this opportunity to rekindle our heart felt dreams, visions, wishes both for ourselves and at a grander scale : for humanity as a whole. Never before have we been so connected. Never before have we had such power and possibility to truly come together as one humanity. And never before has there been such an urgency.

Love as the watch word of the heart – as heart and hearths keep vigil for our bountiful and beautiful planet Earth, earth so round, mother earth, connecting us all through our time together – woven through bonds of care.

If I can befriend myself
If I can be with my own shadow – and not turn away.
If I can listen with compassion to my fears, my needs, my loneliness and pain. And accept that in another.
Then there can be healing and a change.

If I turn away and deny my suffering –
Run for the nearest distraction – I am ignoring myself and missing the opportunity to grow and to heal.

We need a safe space, a nourishing cosy environment and to give ourselves permission – to feel, to grieve, to be with whatever we are carrying : our life story – which in turn affects the broader story of our shared humanity in all its pain & suffering, in shadow and in Light .

Through Christmas time, as collectively humanity bears witness to and invokes ( at least in most of the western world ) – the spirit of giving, of loving care and as the birth of the Christ child is celebrated – we may find that we have created just such an environment as is needed for healing.

May Christmas be a time of healing, of joy and affirming our true humanity illuminated by the enduring Light of Love.

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