The season of love and light is upon us and with it capitalism is rampant with its images and drive around consumption, lost amidst the jungle of jingling bells and northern hemisphere images of snow and sleighs, you might find the odd candle, star or nativity scene. I have always loved the season of advent from the Christian tradition which are where my roots are, for me it is taken on the idea of adventure, waiting, getting ready to enter into a journey that begins with a twinkle in the sky and inevitably leads to being called to go beyond yourself. It is a journey of embodiment, not a sickly sweet or sentimental act of sacrifice, but one where you bring yourself wholehearted to the table.
The symbolism of the Christian nativity is instruction to all activists, regardless of roots – it has it all. The first direction is to go native, to come into the world you are imaging as a child, receiving and soaking up all the story around you, in the company of all creatures, noticing the strangers arriving with gifts that don’t really make sense for what is needed, being comfortable to ask for what you need and it may even be a roof over your head for something new emerging inside of you. You join the world as a full participant and don’t watch from the sidelines. The second direction in the story for me is to be, not do. Receive all that comes your way, soak up the joy of arriving, notice adoration, notice how others might now be able to have a break from pushing and welcome your arrival. Pay attention who else is arriving and who is already there and what roles they are playing. The third direction is to look up. See the star that has guided those before you and those coming in after you to this place. What is the star made of and who else is following it? What mesmerising powers does it seem to hold and what is the counter-intelligence squad plotting because of that same star?
This story is embedded in mine. It is fundamental to my activism, and while it may not be your story, or your tradition, it has been a source for many activists to take up the mantle of the little one born in a manger to parents who had to make their way in an occupied territory to be counted. When we show up as activists, we too are arriving because others have journeyed to justice to be counted among the ones who want to birth something new.
I am always encouraged that in my tradition the instruction manual arrived in the form of a baby. When the work gets complicated or even chaotic, I call myself back to the idea of arriving as a child and try to tap into the wonder and awe in what I have arrived into and trust that if I can bring my inner child to the situation I might be able to scoop up some new insight, energy or get a glimpse of a promise or gift arriving from some wise person dressed exotically and perhaps not even speaking my language. It helps me keep a look out for the unexpected and to be open to possibilities.
The solstice is near and so look up to see Saturn and Jupiter form their own version of the Christmas Star, it was in Galileo’s time that these were so close. It will be another 800 years before it comes around again. That feels like an invitation to look up in wonder and awe. The calendar year is nearly over and with it this year’s theme of writing will come to an end too. As well as looking up, I am looking into the manger and wondering what is being birthed in me for the year ahead and as I take time for that adventure to be made visible to me. I trust that in the dark the skies will come to life and show me a star to guide me.