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Winter’s Chill

Winter is coming. Its been cold enough lately that you could believe it was already here. The days grow shorter and the nights grow longer as the orbit of our Earth takes us as far away from our star as we can get in the course of a year. I can see the breath in front of my face, and feel the dry cold crinkling on my hands and face.

Long ago, the onset of winter was a time for bonfires and revels late into the night. People gathered together for warmth and shared what light they could make together in the dark. Pagans marked the solstice with fire – and today still do – but that habit is not unique to them. Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the Christian observance of Advent all involve lighting candles in the days close to the end of Autumn and the beginning of Winter. Tiny suns to keep watch in the lengthening night.

In our modern age we have things much brighter than meager candles or even large bonfires, of course. Electric lights and decorations, both in-doors and out, mark this season now. There is one particularly impressive house on my new street this year that is a nightly storm of color and radiance, all flashing and glowing and beaming, casting shadows until the dawn.

We have magnified the brightness of our substitute stars, and found ways to insulate ourselves from the cold – gas furnaces, synthetic insulation and cars with heated seats – that our ancestors could not have hoped for. And if we can afford them, any of these privileges may be ours. But so many of these new ways we have to insulate ourselves from the harsh realities of Winter push us apart rather than bringing us together. We retreat to private spaces for electric light and fossil-fueled heat. What is too often missing in our modern rituals for surviving the coming of Winter is the warmth of community.

And this is why I come to church. I do not wish to be warm and alone, or to live a life brightly lit, yet afraid of the dark. I should rather spend time with others who share my fate: held tight by gravity to a rock spinning through space, its axis askew and my own little part of it starved for heat for three months or so out of every twelve. In the presence of community, there is light to share even in the longest night, and warmth to enjoy, even in the chill of Winter. So this year, as the seasons turn and the fire of the sun seems almost to fade, I will be with the people who celebrate life, and who will do their best to love each other even as the world grows cold. I hope I’ll see you there.

In Faith,

Rev. Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson

PS: “Spend less, love more.” This was the basic challenge I set before us in late October of this year: to focus our practice of Hanukkah or Christmas or the Solstice or Festivus or whatever else, on creativity and depth of feeling, rather than commercialism. I have enjoyed hearing from some of you about how the experiment is going so far, and I have been challenged by it several times myself in the last few months. If this is something you haven’t given much thought to, there’s still time to try something new – just as there are still more than two weeks of shopping days left until Christmas, there are also just as many hours remaining for you to turn up the radio and have an impromptu family dance party instead of making one more trip to the mall. December 19th, the last Sunday before Christmas, will be our annual pageant Sunday, and will also be the day on which our Coming of Age class collects from the congregation all the money we didn’t need this holiday season. However much less you spent, bring it in. All contributions will go to the charity chosen by our children and youth: UNICEF.


First Parish Church

225 Cabot St

Beverly, MA 01915


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