Today is how the church disrespects one of her own, and let’s put that right. We considered the Apostle Thomas, hung with moniker “Doubting,” some time ago in the Great Fifty Days of Easter. Given that today, December 21st, Winter Solstice, Midwinter, the day when our Northern Hemisphere is declined the furthest away from the Sun and therefore we experience the shortest period of observable daylight of any day of the year, is the Feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle. Seriously. I think some hefty recovery is in order, but first things first…
Solstice (literally, sun-standing-still), technically called the hibernal solstice, is cosmologically, meteorologically and historically significant for humankind. The solstices and equinoxes defined reliable agricultural boundary lines for Neolithic peoples transitioning from hunting and gathering nomads to landed agrarian societies. It kinda matters to farmers if, and when, the sunlight will return! Fermented drinks came to full flower about now, helpful to some and not so much for others. Domestic livestock were often slaughtered about now as their owners could not begin to provide them with reliable feed throughout the long winter, thus creating a near universal experience of meat being available for feasting just now for a short time. And not a large leap to understand how numerous religious and cultural traditions
adhesed themselves to this consequential period celebrating the survival of light in a dark time, thus the Roman bacchanal named Saturnalia, the northern Celtic Hogmanay and other infamous festivals dedicated to gastronomic and sexual excess. Perhaps don’t give me all that ol’ time religion?! Ancient standing stones almost universally help keep this solstice calendar with sacred stones oriented to mark winter and summer solstice. One doesn’t own Stonehenge, one simply stewards it for the next generation….
And this is the day our Christian forebears chose to remember Thomas, the only disciple with enough…uh, er, trust, yeah, that’s the descriptor word I was going to use here, yeah, enough trust and courage to tell his cowering friends they should all follow Jesus to Jerusalem even though it might cost them their lives. Thomas, on his literal knees just a few chapters later in John’s Gospel as he meets the resurrected Jesus, My Lord and my God! Thomas, who goes east to establish the Christian church on the Indian subcontinent at the cost of his own life. Sadly, we do not call the Scottish Church Andrewkirk, but we do call the Indian church Mar Thoma to this day. Doubting Thomas, really?! How about Believing Thomas?! Happy Solstice everyone!
- Tonight is definitely a day for candles. Lots and lots and lots of candles. Careful in our dry climate, but super cool to illuminate our homes by candlelight tonight!
- Would you join me in praying the Collect for Saint Thomas tonight over our Advent wreaths at full sail? Here it is:Everliving God, who strengthened your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in your Son’s resurrection: Grant us so
perfectly and without doubt to believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that our faith may never be found wanting in your sight; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
- Confronting our doubts and fears is an essential element of any authentic Christian journey. How about we skip the wild excesses of our forebears today, and perhaps focus instead upon we are doubters of Christ? Would you join me in lifting up our personal doubts and fears to God today? Can we join this amazing apostle and say, My Lord and My God to Jesus?