We are approaching my favorite time of year. No, not Christmas, though I have plenty of happy memories of gathering with the extended McLean clan in Wisconsin. It’s the Winter Solstice that speaks most to my soul.
It’s partly about the beauty of the Winter Solstice itself, that longest night of the year, when we celebrate both the darkness and the returning light, as people have done from ancient times. Its power is part of why Christianity celebrates the birth of Christ in late December: to connect with the ancient Winter Solstice and Saturnalia celebrations of this welcoming back of the light into the world.
What I really like best about the Winter Solstice, though, is the powerful love and belonging I associate with it. At my church in Spokane, I sang in the women’s choir, a tight-knit community within a community. I loved that experience all through the church year, but it became especially potent for me in the fall and winter, as we began to rehearse the Winter Solstice service.
The service itself was so powerful that it moved me to tears the first time I experienced it, as a congregant rather than a choir member. Not just because the lyrics were meaningful, though they were. Not just because the women’s voices were beautiful, though they were. But because through the singing, those women created sacred space in that sanctuary. Everyone was wrapped not only in the sound of their voices, but in the powerful feelings of love and reverence they evoked.
Let the Spirit come to you, run through you, renew you.
Let the love shine on to you, pursue you, undo you.
Let the light shine above you, be of you, that loves you.
Let the peace settle in you, within you, begin you.
I have enjoyed singing with others since I was a child. Blending my voice in a group has always been a tangible experience of interconnectedness, and a spiritual practice that moves me out of my head and into my heart and my soul. As we sing, we literally vibrate together, and are bathed in the sound we can only create together. When I sing, especially the powerful Winter Solstice songs, I feel that vibration in my heart. And when it works perfectly, the congregants, even when not singing, become part of a loop of giving and receiving of both sound and love that is almost beyond the power of words to describe. The lyrics of one of the Winter Solstice songs reflect that:
One is for our faith in the music
Two is for our faith in the crowd
Three and four our faith in each other
That is how we sing out loud.
I’m looking forward to our “Singing In the Solstice” service on December 21st. Come, let’s sing together!