A Winter Solstice Service

Winter Solstice – December 21st, 2019 – 5pm
First Parish Watertown, MA

Welcome/Opening Words Izzy Td
Welcome Friends – thank you for joining with us on this dark and chilly night. We are here to take time to welcome back the sun and say goodbye to the despair of darkness.

For all of us who live in the Northeast, the night of winter solstice marks an ancestral understanding that from this moment when we choose to walk in the circle of life, we step forward towards a lengthening light, towards the buds of rejuvenation, towards the embracing warmth of summer, towards the bounty and harvest of fall. We ride on a trusty wheel that we cannot and do not want to stop.

Join us tonight as we open our hearts to make room for the uplifting, the brightening, the healing and inspiring return of our celestial provider.

Please rise if you are able in join this singing ‘Spirit of Life’ as printed in your program.

SPIRIT OF LIFE (Hymn 123) Guy Urban
    Fuente de Amor, ven hacia mí.                    Spirit of Life, come unto me.
    Y al corazón, cántale tu compasión.            Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
    Sopla al volar, sube en la mar,                      Blow in the wind, rise in the sea,
    Hasta moldear la justicia de la vida.            Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
    Arráigame, libérame,                                      Roots hold me close, wings set me free,
    Fuente de Amor, ven a mí, ven a mí.           Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.

Casting the Sacred Circle Beth Td [each person stands in correct compass spot in room around the candle]
As we prepare to call in the directions to cast our sacred circle for welcoming back the sun, let us give thanks for the darkness which is the yin to the yang of light. Winter, darkness, can bring quietude, rest, gestation, ease for a migraine… Darkness reminds us that the need for withdrawal is an essential part of renewal. (pause)

The wheel of the year has turned once more. The nights have grown longer and colder.

Tonight, the darkness begins to retreat, and light begins its return once again.

As the wheel continues to spin, the sun returns to us once more.

(Light the sun/central candle)

Even in the darkest hours, even in the longest nights, The spark of life lingered on.

Lying dormant, waiting, ready to return when the time was right.

The darkness will leave us now, as the sun begins its journey home.

I call the North, symbolized by Earth – a place of rest and patience. (light candle)

North Izzy Td – Bev Tappan 2019 poem

The Right Place at the Right Time

The woods in winter:
The peeling bark, the skeletal trees.
The blood-red berries blinking bright,
The tracks of squirrels in the snow,
The sere brown leaves of oak and beech
So loath to let go.

You can see
The sun through arboreal traceries,
And flocks of twittering birds
Flutter and flit from tree to tree,
Then rise in a soaring cloud
And swirl away.

The woods in winter
Are not dense or menacing or dark
As are the woods in summer.
You see what roots and rocks
To step around, what handholds
Will support you.

It is a joy
To walk the woods in winter,
To breathe the crisp cold air,
To clear the cluttered mind
To calm the troubled soul.
My place is there.

Beth Td – I call the East, a place of new beginnings, symbolized by Air. (light candle)

East  – Allison Hewett – Robert C. Howard poem – What the Morning Said

An orange-rose halo suffused
the eastern horizon
like the birth of a fresh new world.
Our celestial furnace, still veiled
beyond the eastern edge,
lent its glow to the bright silver disk
still hovering in the western sky.

In the chill still of an autumn morn
where yesterday greets tomorrow,
a sermon wrought of science and spirit
whispered through the aether,
 “All is hope.
All is promise.
All is awakening,”

Beth Td – I call the South, symbolized by Fire  – a place of passion. (light candle)

 South  – Charlyn Bethell – Wioste Olowan Tokiya & Zuni Sunset Song – Native American Flute

Beth Td – I call the West, a place of transformation, symbolized by life-sustaining Water. (light candle)

WestBobbi Brown – On Understanding West
In many traditions West is a symbol of endings, frequently linked with autumn, middle age, and conclusion. In these adult years it is time of building knowledge and wisdom, discarding 1 “shoulds” and “should nots,” developing our own values. It follows, as found on one Native American Medicine Wheel, that West’s physical aspects are introspection and insight, grounding us to the earth. 2

Looking to the West the fading daylight hours represent slow, purposeful change telling us it is time for preparation. Bear, West’s animal spirit, lets us know that we need solitude. Bear embraces the darkness, trusting there will be light on awakening. 3

West’s element on the Medicine Wheel is water with its healing and energy flow that connects us with a Higher Self.4

1 auntyflow.com 12/15/19
2 traditionalnativehealing.com
3 whatismyspiritanimal.com 12/15/19
4 whatismyspiritanimal.com 12/16/19

DARK OF WINTER (Hymn 55)Guy
Dark of winter, soft and still                                      Darkness soothe my weary eyes,
your quiet calm surrounds me.                                That I may see more clearly.
Let my thoughts go where they will,                       When my heart with sorrow cries,
ease my mind profoundly.                                         Comfort and caress me.                                 
And then my soul will sing a song,                            And then my soul will hear a voice,
a blessed song of love eternal.                                  A still, small voice of love eternal.
Gentle darkness soft and still,                                   Darkness, when my fears arise,
bring your quiet to me.                                              Let your peace flow though me.

Homily – Making Room for Joy – Izzy Td

On this winter night we gather together here, and I wonder if many of you feel, as I do, that we have been struggling through a never-ending winter? Are your hearts too full of ache, concern, worry, sorrow about the future, angry about unwelcoming injustices, over-burdened, too weary to beat with enthusiastic JOY?

Bad News, Bad News, and when does it end?

My personal basket of burdens has filled to overflow several times in these past few months. I have tried to ignore, but cannot, the hateful, selfish powerful who currently drive our nation. I have spent too many nights in emergency rooms watching over people that I love. I have turned my eyes in self-defense from too many stories highlighting the cruelty of humanity. Too often I have gasped at news of beautiful lives cut short. Like one who suffers from PTSD, I have often felt that I am surrounded by more sorrow than I can physically carry in my heart.

I have called my homily tonight, ‘Making Room for Joy’, but I cannot really even say the word ‘JOY’ without feeling Pollyanna. JOY – it feels a bit like a distant memory, a lost innocence.

And yet, tonight, as we take time to simply honor the ever-encircling wheel of time, I know that Joy is a friend who I must welcome home.

My mother’s recent poem ‘The Right Place at the Right Time’, was written about the physical winter woods…

   They are not menacing or dark
   as are the woods in summer.
   You see what roots and rocks
   to step around, what
   handholds will support you.


This poem, so true in a literal sense, was written this November in the month of recovery that followed an unexpected outburst of mental illness in my close family. It was a crisis grown from anxiety, lack of sleep and likely a bad cocktail of anti-depressants and it peaked the weekend before I was supposed to set out on a 10-day travel adventure with my mother. In the midst of my family’s figurative winter woods, we were gifted with a schedule as clear as the trees that have lost their leaves. We were able to come together as a family and provide handholds on the slippery path. I believe that those 10 days of love that we could offer were healing. Yet clearly, there remains a challenge to reopen the heart to the JOYS of life.

In the last month I stumbled upon a summer lay service sermon that I wrote five years ago to explain how I was able to reimagine myself through a major career change. I called that sermon, ‘Practicing the Art of Transformational Thinking’ – and the basic premise of that service is one that I find helpful to remember now:

If you want positive change to come in life, you must first allow yourself to envision what that change looks like.

I don’t know if that sounds to you like common sense or self-help babble-talk, but the basic reality is that we cannot create what we cannot first envision.

Sometimes these visions are quick thoughts, or blurry, but they can lead us to a place of clarity if we can allow ourselves to be led.
So tonight, as the darkness of winter begins to lift, I ask myself this:

Am I ready to allow JOY to return to my heart? And what does JOY look like to me?

Making Room for JOY requires a trust that I am, indeed, in the Right Place at the Right Time.

For me, it is choosing to go to yoga class instead of a national impeachment protest on a chilly, rainy night – because yoga brings me peace and protest fuels my frustrations.

It is choosing to spend an hour with the cat who wants to sit upon the lap, rather than doing something ‘productive’, because that is what she needs, and also it is what I need.

It is choosing to find time to plan a frivolous bowling playdate with my sisters and wife, because our bonded laughter heals my soul.

It is making choices to exercise, play music and get outdoors, enjoy my family as often as I can, because those activities lift me up.

And so tonight, I ask you this: Are you ready to make room in your hearts for JOY?

As my mother has written:
It is a joy
to walk the woods in winter,
to breathe the crisp cold air,
to clear the cluttered mind,
to calm the troubled soul.
My place is there.

As we now take time to wrap ourselves in the transformational beauty of Alyssa Lawson’s cello playing, I ask that you meditate on this:

What crumbling leaves must you clear from your hearts to open your own pathways to JOY?

Musical MeditationAlyssa Lawson – Cello Solo – Excerpt from Prelude to 5th Bach cello suite

Darkness Fire-burning Ceremony
Izzy Td

As we have done in the past, we will now take time to honor the transformational power and warmth of fire. As Guy plays for us a reprieve our opening hymn, Spirit of Life, I welcome you to come to the fire to burn away thoughts that are blocking your pathways to JOY. With fuel from these dried grasses, that may represent your own burdens, we will silently ask the Power of Fire to transform them and leave your heart more open.

Call to Welcome Light and Joy
Izzy Td
With our hearts lightened by the warmth and power of fire, we look forward to the growing Light in our hearts.


Circle Opening (for departing) Words – Beth Td
Solstice Prayer
– from Edward Hays before opening the circle

The dark shadow of space leans over us. We are mindful that darkness and greed, exploitation, and hatred also lengthen shadows over our small planet.

May we find hope in the lights we have kindled on this sacred night; hope in one another and in all who form the web-work of peace and justice that spans the world.

May we who have celebrated this winter solstice by our lives and service, by our prayer and love, call forth from one another the light and the love that is in every heart. (pause)

It is the time to open our sacred circle.

We begin with the West, and its transformational powers of water. Thank you for sharing your presence in our circle today. (extinguish the candle) Hail and farewell to the West!

… to the South, land of fire. Thank you for your presence in our circle today, sharing inspiration and courage. (extinguish the candle) Hail and farewell to the South!

… to  the East, thank you for sharing your presence in our circle today, the Earth and your spirit of renewal. (extinguish the candle) Hail and farewell to the East!

… to  the North, the Air.  Thank you for sharing your presence in our circle today, for sharing patience and wisdom.  (extinguish the candle) Hail and farewell to the North!

Our circle is now open, but never broken!

Ask everyone to read together the words in their orders of service:

“The sun returns! The light returns! The earth begins to warm once more!
The time of darkness has passed, and a path of light begins the new day.
Welcome, welcome, the heat of the sun, blessing us all with its rays.”

THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE (Hymn 118) – Guy [Izzy and Beth will lead a line dance out of the circle]

This little Light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…
Everywhere I go, I’m gonna let it shine…
Building up a world, I’m gonna let it s
hine…

About Respect The Paw

Izzy Tappan-deFrees is a compassionate animal groomer, a musician and songster, a teardrop camper lovin' traveler, a daughter, a wife & mom, a trail hiker, a campfire devotee, a wood carver, a student of spirit around the world, a good listener, a part-time poet and a former data analyst and programmer.
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