One could say that everything we do for the holidays is an effort to create 'containers of connection' -- ways to ensure Light and Love are present in the cold and wintry darkness of the year.
My family's special 'container of connection' is a cluster of old log cabins in the backwoods of Alabama -- our homestead for over thirty years. Our entire wild and wooly clan descends on Papa every December -- children, spouses, grandchildren, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and a cockatiel named Tuck. Mama found the land long ago and convinced her high-powered attorney husband to live intimately with the natural world. She died awhile back, and nowadays Papa is gardener, farmer, and beekeeper. Mostly he spends his time figuring out how to co-inhabit with the wild creatures who really own the place.
As the longest night approaches, our land grows still and expectant, serenely waiting for the return of Light. But inside the cabins, chaos reigns. Inflatable mattresses have new holes to patch; children find the candy stash and fly around in sugared frenzies; tempers flare over non-stop eating and mounds of dirty dishes. Unresolved issues from childhood pour out over dinner; doors slam; people pout and yell, and we are left wondering why in the world, once again, we agreed to participate in such madness.
Then one of the children comes running in, starry-eyed because she's heard the barred owl over in the holler and the coyote singing carols down in the cedars. We tuck away our troubles and head for the pastures to cut down a tree, gather mistletoe, and brew up wassail on the woodstove. As a fire crackles on the hearth, we douse the electric lights and sit together in the close and holy darkness of the year. A child fumbles with a match, holds the flame to the candle in our midst, and suddenly, there we all are, around the table -- Light in our faces, hope in our hearts, showing up, gathering together, in a messy, marvelous container we dare call Love.
May each of you have the courage to brave wild and wooly gatherings for the sake of Love, and may the Light hidden in every darkness shine out always to illuminate your days!