By Ruth Sanford



The appearance of festive lights and now the first snow of the winter have made real for me the approach of the Christmas season. In spite of my awareness of the powerful profit motive evident in the festive music and the decoration, be it rich or tawdry, which appear in shops and stores, Ifind a childlike pleasure and a warmth welling up in me as lpause at udndows to enjoy fanciful displays or, being borne skyward by an escalator, can look down on a great expanse of garlands and tinkling lights with shoppers moving among them. For this brieftime, the enchantment ofanotherplace, a time that never was, become believable. I choose to let myself enjoy it, to accept the excitement and the beauty as it comes to me!

But there is another beauty and a power about this season which reaches deep into the heart of any person who can perceive them. It seems that coincidence can hardly explain the clustering'o Christmas, Chanukah and Winter Solstice in the bleakest month of the year.

Only recently have I become aware of Solstice, December twenty second, as the oldest ufinterfestival we know about, an expression of the sacredness of the link which all living creatures have udth one another and udth the great Life Forces of the Earth - a closeness which we have lost as we have moved away from our beginnings into the Age of Technology. ft is an expression of simple faith that on the longest, darkest, coldest night of the year light will return; it is a culmination of the life force of the sun, the beginning of another cycle, moving toward the warm, long, life-giving days ofjune. And since the earlyfestival of Winter Solstice was close to earth, life-origins, birtk it carried with it a profound respectfor Woman.

Not so old in its tradition but close in time of year, is the celebration by Jews of the rededication of the Temple, a time of recommitment, of rejoicing and of celebration, of lights and drawing together offamily and friends. To Christians, the birth of the Christ Child brought new hope, new life and a direct message of Love incarnate from God to "all who on this earth do dwell"

Each of these celebrations speaks of a yearning of the human heart to feel close to the Source of Life itself, for the promise of renewal of life, for hope and for closeness to others who are human like ourselves. Each in its own way brings men and women, girls and boys the world over closer togetherfor a time.

At this season millions of people open themselves to the pleasure of giving, to the life-giving power and warmth of loving, the joy of nurturing and being nurtured by others, the glow of being able to accept as well as to give. To be sure there are other millions who count dollar loss and gain as primary to any part of life, and for whom the meaning is lost in the show and the busyness and the competitiveness. But I choose to believe that their numbers are fewer than we guess, if we could see inside.

I would guess that there are many who go through the motions, who do not permit themselves to feel warm and generous, to care deeply and warmly for others for fear of hurt; and that there are others who, have not learned to say openly, "I love you", or "I think you're great, "

It is the loneliness, the need to love and be loved, to belong, to feel worth caring for, the longing to become a person of more value to self and to others, to which we can respond more freely in this season (if we don t get lost in a sea of tinsel and gift wrap and greeting cards), because in some mysterious way it is accepted, even expected, during times of celebration. And so we feel safer in opening ourselves to others at Chanukah, Christmas and Winter Solstice, and at New Year, all four, times of beginning and celebration.

But once our gifts are truly an expression of love rather than an exchange, and cards are a sincere desire to communicate once we have felt the surge of caring and the power engendered by being closer to one another, there is no limit on the duration, excepting the limit we place on ourselves.

May the joy of this season, in whatever way you celebrate or have celebrated it, live with you longer this year and so continue to extend year after year, until all the celebrations meet!