There is something about this time of year that makes a person turn inward and look at their spiritual and religious points of view - or it does if you don't let the cacophony of "Buy! Buy!" drown out the sound of your own thoughts. I think it is natural to turn inward as the days grow darker and shorter - it is unfortunate that our winter holidays have been overtaken by consumerism and the frantic compulsion to outdo the neighbors, and it's probably a very good thing to remember that this sort of holiday keeping is new in the grand scheme of things and not anything that is inherently natural.
In fact, in the Christian calendar, we are about to begin the season of Advent, which is absolutely NOT about running and chasing down bargains and keeping a hectic pace of doing and buying and having and getting in preparation for Christmas. It's about slowing down, remembering the why of the celebration instead of piling on glitz and glamour.
Christian or not, Advent ... a slowing down, listening to the silence as darkness falls, anticipating the coming light... makes sense to me.
For those of us who see this as a seasonal turning point, this sort of advent observation is only natural - the earth lies fallow after the last harvest, and everything seems to have gone barren and still... but beneath the increasingly cold dirt, out of our view, life is sleeping and resting in preparation to rise and live anew. This time of year is when we most need faith, to trust that what we cannot see is still there.. that plants will raise shoots where they appear to be dead, that trees that are naked but for a few clinging dead leaves with again burst forth in bud and flower, the the light that grows dimmer with every day will again return to us.
With all that in mind, even though I am not Christian, I want to keep an Advent of sorts. I've mentioned before that I am pagan by faith - I get my spiritual wisdom and sense of joy from the natural world. I do not follow any particular religious branch that identifies as pagan - to me, spirituality and religion are not the same thing, and I find that I am no better at fitting into earth-based religious molds than I ever was at my occasional attempts to fit into Christian religious molds.
I've also mentioned before that I am Universal Unitarian by religion, and that seems to be a good starting point, because this is a new thing for me - I began attending a UU congregation just about a year ago with Michael (in fact, this weekend to come will be my 'year and a day'). I've not yet joined - which means simply that I've not signed the registry book - I'll be doing that once I move there this summer. But even so, I am able to say that I am UU - even just a few months ago, I'd have merely said I attend a UU congregation.
Over the next few weeks, my advent meditation will be looking over what makes me UU - as a religious body, both the Unitarian and Universalist roots are liberal Christian - when the two combined a few decades ago, it began to widen its scope, and today there are many UUs who are Buddhist, pagan of various stripes, Jewish, Humanist, even atheist, and this is what I find most attractive about it, and most mysterious - -
Being UU has very little to do with what you believe, and everything to do with how you conduct your life. And it does it without a single, solitary mandate about what you MUST do, because the bottom line is that UU is about personal choice and responsibility.
Instead, it is united by 7 principles... guidelines mainly for how we will respect one another and ourselves, and 6 sources we draw upon for wisdom. These are the things I'm going to look at here over the next few weeks - to meditate on what these mean for me... the what do *I* believe in regards to how I express myself from a religious perspective.
I'm excited to start this - and more than a bit intimidated, as there are very many well spoken UUs who have puzzled this out better than I ever could. But it seems important to me to be able to find a way to express what all this means to me before I officially declare myself, so that maybe I will have an answer to give when I'm asked 'UU? pagan? but what do you believe?"
I believe I'll head to bed for now. ;) Beyond that, I guess we'll figure that out along the way.