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Holiday Message from President William G. Sinkford

Green Gaia

Veteran Member

Dear Friends,

We are approaching the days of deep mid-winter when our thoughts turn to family, comfort, and also to the new year and the uncertainties of the future. The winter holidays speak to our hunger for light at the time of year when it is easiest to imagine it might never return.

Hanukkah is celebrated not only when days are shortest and nights are longest, but when the nights are darkest, too, occurring late in the lunar cycle when the moon has all but disappeared. This holiday commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem (hanukkah means “dedication”) after the Jews defeated their Hellenist Syrian rulers in the middle of the second century BCE. Jewish tradition does not celebrate the military victory, but the miracle of the lamp lit in the Temple that burned for eight days on a single bottle of oil: the lighting of candles against the darkness, the rekindling of hope and dedication in a dark time.

Hanukkah was almost certainly timed to connect with pagan solstice celebrations that were common in that part of the world: people gathering around bonfires to bring back the light. That spirit is evoked so beautifully in Susan Cooper’s poem “The Shortest Day”:

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.

They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.​

Christmas is similarly timed: we celebrate the birth of a baby who would later be called the Prince of Peace. I think of Mary in the story, given the overwhelming news that she will bear the son of God, remaining faithful throughout, forced to travel long past the point in her pregnancy when travel could have been comfortable, then laboring and giving birth in the middle of the night in a stable. In the deep dark of night, when things look bleakest: a baby, and a star proclaiming the birth of the Spirit of Life and love among us.

At those times when things seem darkest, there is nowhere to be but right where we are; no way around our pain and uncertainty, only through it. If that is what this season feels like to you, have faith. The days will get longer, the road ahead clearer.

Susan Cooper’s poem encourages us on the path so often walked in these holidays:

All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.​

So for now, gather around the fires, be together in your congregations, and light the lights. Rededicate yourselves to what you value, have faith that your commitment matters and that, in the words of the Psalm, joy cometh in the morning. And may the Spirit of Life and love be rekindled in your hearts this season. From my family to yours, and from all of us who work for our Association, I wish you happy holidays, peace, and hope.