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Winter Solstice Liturgy

From: Rev. Vicky Elder, Unity of Monterey Bay



We welcome you to this inclusive and universal Celebration of Light, on this Winter Solstice—the longest, darkest night of the year.  Since ancient times…this drama around the return of the actual physical light that sustains us…has served as the basis for myth and ritual—symbolizing perennial new life, the birth of Gods, and the center of Hope—throughout human history.


In honor of this Solstice—and the transformation our nation and world are embarking upon…we begin with this Solstice Song…


MUSIC:  O Night Divine (Melissa Etheridge) Performed by


The world stands at the precipice of great change.  The Change is not optional.  It is occurring all around us – and whether we remember choosing to participate or not – the role of “transformers” is now ours.

We who have been born into this time and place – are the chosen ones; and the nobility of our lives depends upon the manner in which we come to understand and fulfill our assigned role…


The Indigenous Peoples of the world are calling for us to wake up from our current “dream of progress;” the industrialized dream that has plundered Earth to her deepest foundations and established a radical discontinuity between humans and the rest of creation; to WAKE UP AND CHANGE our current devasting DREAM to one with a concept of progress that transcends human isolationism, to include the entire earth community.


If there is to be real and sustainable progress – it must be a continuing enhancement of life for the entire planetary community – from the plankton of the sea to the birds above the land.  It must include the grasses, the trees, and all the living creatures of the earth.  True progress must also sustain the purity and life-giving qualities of both the air and the water.


What we know is, the mysterious forces that have guided earthly events thus far – through the sequence of crisis moments at each stage of its development – have NOT suddenly collapsed under the great volume of human affairs…

From the beginning, a dynamic Power – the ever-unfolding, ever-expanding upward progressive movement of Life – has shaped the course of the heavens, lighted the sun, and formed the earth.  This same dynamism brought forth the continents and the seas and atmosphere; awakened life in the primordial cell and then brought into being the unnumbered variety of living beings and finally brought us into being and guided us safely through turbulent centuries.  This same guiding process is precisely what has awakened in us our present understanding of our relationship to this Power – and to Creation…


And, we can be absolutely certain that this same guidance is available to us now…


The challenge lies in the magnitude of change required:  We cannot simply mitigate the symptoms of our current system, we must co-create a New Order.  We must imagine a new context of survival that transcends not only national and religious limitations, but our species’ isolation embodied in the industrial dream.  We must dream a new dream…


To achieve this purpose – we must begin where everything begins in human affairs—with the basic story—our narrative of how things came to be, how they came to be as they are, and how we can give the future some satisfying direction.


In 2006, recognizing this coming challenge, we here at UMB, co-created a New Sacred Story to discover ourselves within….a story that would integrate rather than negate our modern understanding of the universe—while  also acknowledging the eternal MYSTERIES that still exist.  A story that would honor the diverse sacred traditions of the world and the DEEP WISDOM each brings to the Whole…


I’d like to believe that our bold vision is part of what has been ushering in this new awakening – both the painful dismantling of the worlds’ economies, and the seeding of hope within the development of increasing world-wide dialogue and cooperation.  But our work has only begun…

The glimmers of enlightenment require attention and mindfulness… we must continue to BE the change we want to see…  What a grand and glorious time to be alive!


SO, on with our Story…


Imagine we are gathered here tonight, on this Northern Hemisphere Winter Solstice, in the year 2500… and imagine that we are aware of similar gatherings taking place in churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and sacred circles all around the world…as humanity celebrates the world’s Spiritual Re-awakening of 2010…


Perhaps…it would go something like this:


MUSIC: Ode To Joy


Sing of joy to all the nations, sing of joy in every land!

Sing with joyous exultation through our hearts and with our hands.

Let our spirits gather freely. Let our joyous light be true.

Deep within we feel the meaning: joy brings life to all anew.


Sing of joy with all our voices,sing with joy in all our days!

Sing with joyous celebration,trust our hearts to find a way.

Fear no clouds and fear no darkness.Let the joy be stronger still.

Bringing forth our invitation,joy is life for us to fill.


Tonight we come together to celebrate the great spiritual awakening of 2010, and the Covenant of Light that transformed our human journey by creating a New Sacred Story to Unite the world’s People and re-establish the Earth as Sacred.


During the latter 20th Century, the ways of the Modern came to dominate the earth, bringing great gifts, but also great challenges.  Science, technology and freedom expanded exponentially, unleashing our human arrogance and shifting our focus from Truth to facts.  The Earth became simply a resource to exploit; our Sacred Stories were deemed obsolete and impotent.


By the start of the second millennium, the world had become fragmented and embroiled in conflict on many levels.  Global warming caused by the pollution of technology and rampant consumerism had reached dire proportions.   Communications technology was making the world smaller, but the canyon between the “haves” and the “have-nots” was growing ever-larger. Greed and corruption dominated the free-market, finally causing it to collapse. And, attempting to find certainty in the midst of a constantly-changing world, religious fundamentalism grew—and with it, religious wars and terrorism.


We needed a new Sacred Story to find ourselves in, a story that would

educate us; a story that would heal, guide, discipline and UNIFY us; a story that would renew our human participation in the grand, unfolding liturgy of the universe.



MUSIC:  “Be a Candle of Hope” (by Becki Slagle Mayo)

Performed by the Unity Choir



In the year 2010, a World Gathering of Wise Prophets convened – from the spiritual, scientific and social realms.  These leaders, from diverse backgrounds and disciplines, came together to discern new answers to the world’s crisis.  Most importantly, they understood that each field had essential pieces of the puzzle—and only working together—could they heal the Earth and unite Humanity.


The Gathering participants agreed to listen generously, without judgment; to share authentically, with integrity; and to seek the highest and the best from each of the traditions present, with open hearts and minds.  They set an intention to step beyond their known worlds to engage one another’s…and to co-create together…an unprecedented vision of possibility for the world’s future.  The Circle opened with this story…



A pious rabbi named Eisik once lived in Cracow.  He was very poor.  One night as he slept on the dirt floor of his hovel, he had a dream which told him to go to Prague, where, under the bridge that led to the royal castle he could unearth a great treasure. 


He set out for Prague the very next day, and after many days of walking, he found the bridge that lead to the castle.  But, the bridge was guarded day and night, so the rabbi walked back and forth awaiting a moment when the bridge might be unwatched so that he might dig for his treasure.  The captain of the guard finally became curious and approached him saying, “You have been walking back & forth for days…have you lost something?”


At this, the rabbi innocently narrated his tale.  The captain, a modern secular man, replied, “You have worn out all that shoe leather on account of a dream?  I too had a dream, three times. It told me to go to the town of Cra-cow, and find a Rabbi Eisik, and then dig in his dirt floor behind his stove in the middle of his room—and there I  would find a great treasure.  But dreams are only silly superstitions, go home old man…stop wasting your time.”


The rabbi immediately understood and promptly returned home, and dug underneath the heart of his hearth, where the warmth of his own being lay.  And there he unearthed a treasure, which put an end to his poverty.



At the story’s conclusion, the Wise Prophets nodded in realization at its seeming paradoxical, yet important Truths.  First, it taught that the treasure which can put an end to our spiritual poverty lies NOT in another country…but can be found within the heart of our heart—in the center of our own tradition—if we dig deeply.


Equally important, however, is the 2nd message: It often requires a pious journey to a distant land, and encounters with strangers of other faiths…to come to know ourselves and discover the treasure that is within.


The prophets each chose a direction on the sacred wheel that most closely embraced their own tradition.  The directions on the wheel symbolized both the value of distinctions and the sacredness of the whole.  Intentionally shifting energy from fear to love, from fragmentation to wholeness, the Sacred was vigilantly reclaimed, and the healing of the world began.


A Covenant of Light was formeda commitment to work together in recognition that the wisdom perspectives of all were necessary to address the myriad of human crises in which the world had become enmeshed.


This Covenant was only the beginning…as with all Truth…it planted a seed, which if tended, would continue to yield fruit.  The Covenant of the Light imagined and seeded a new human story of UNITY—demonstrating how humanity could celebrate human diversity, while recognizing our inherent interdependence and shared destiny with one another and the Earth.


Tonight we are doing our part to “tend” this Truth.  We join with people all around the world, on this Winter Solstice, to remember and recommit to this great awakening, through story and song… honoring the gifts of each of the directions on the Sacred Wheel of life… 


As our pageant unfolds…there will be song and story interspersed. You are invited to join in the singing whenever words appear on the screen.



MUSIC –  Co-Creators




I represent the People of the South…encompassing the most ancient traditions…but the most powerless in modern terms…


“Our traditions have been called primal, indigenous, pagan and earth-based.  We locate the sacred in nature and the ultimate unity of all creation.

For millennia, we lived in harmony with the Earth…in the Americas, in Africa and down under…by the Original Instructions.  But our wisdom has been subjugated to Western ways.


The Original Instructions are not ideas, like the 10 Commandments, or the laws of other spiritual traditions; they are Reality, the Way of Things.  They are not of the mind, but of the Spirit; they cannot be fully explained, but must be experienced.  Our Wise Ones learned through deep listening to the songs of life—to the grasses and the rains—the mountains and the winds—the rivers and the oceans—the winged ones and four-leggeds… Each sings a song of Wisdom and Truth which we can learn from…revealing the harmony of life…reminding us that we are not the Weavers of this web of life—but merely a strand in it.  AND, what we do to the web, we do to ourselves and our children.


The world has stopped listening to these sacred songs, and forgotten the Original Instructions.  Technology has spawned ignorance and arrogance …and the world has lost its way.  We bring the gift of storythe language of Spirit… to guide us back home…


Story of the Drums…


I light this candle that represents the sacred earth wisdom of the first peoples…




MUSIC…In the Silence (#74)




I represent the People of the East…our traditions have bloomed in the great cultures of the Orient and include Hindu, Buddhist, Tao, and Confucian.

We locate the sacred within the silence…that sacred place where words and activity come to a full stop…allowing for self-reflection and divine revelation…


The noise of modern living has entranced people…without silence, we forgot how to know ourselves.  We became caught in the vicious cycle of consumerism and addictions—as we fruitlessly sought to define ourselves by external trappings.  Our egos, grounded in fear, dominated our souls…


“Silence stands outside the world of profit and utility. It cannot be exploited for profit; you cannot get anything out of it.  It is ‘unproductive,’ therefore it is regarded as useless.  Yet there is more help and healing in silence than in all useful things.”  (Writer Max Picard)


I light the candle of the lotus to represent the gifts of self-reflection and humility…to balance the human voice and power that have come to dominate our world.  In the silence, we can hear Truth’s whisper, which awakens our minds from illusions and prejudices, to invite mindful living.







MUSIC: Glorious (Melissa Etheridge) Performed by




We are the people of the West.  We embrace the common heritage of    Judaism, Christianity and Islam…who all share the vision of One God—also revealed in other monotheistic traditions such as Bahai, and perhaps the most ancient of all, Zoroaster.  We locate the sacred in our personal and communal relationship with God and God’s creation.  We bring the gift of sacred community.  


Unfortunately, our tribal, cultural and regional differences have often overshadowed, even perverted our common calling into violent competition. Too often, we have mistaken the call of being “Chosen” as one of entitlement rather than one of service.


In accordance with divine order, we are often called to teach what we most need to learn.  And, when we distill our traditions into their essence, and remove the nationalism and parochialism, we discover there is more to unite then separate.  Together, we bring the sacred gifts of faith, transforming love, and willing obedience to offer to the world…




The Hebrew tradition’s great faith in One G-d has had a lasting and compelling influence on the evolution of Western thought.  Defining the sacred in a G-d of Love and Justice, intimately involved with humanity, seeded the concept of HOPE and purposeful activity holding the potential for improvement.  The Wisdom of the Jewish Sages teaches that  ~

Effort is its own reward…

We are here to do,

And through doing to learn;

And through learning to know;

And through knowing to experience wonder;

And through wonder to attain wisdom;

And through wisdom to find simplicity;

And through simplicity to give attention;

And through attention…To see what needs to be done.


The Hebrew tradition also introduced the idea of sacred rest…the Sabbath; a time when the world stands still and we cease all activity to breathe into the now sacred moment and realize the Presence of G-d.


I light this candle to honor G-d’s Presence in our daily lives – guiding our activity…and calling us to sacred rest… 




The Christian tradition grew from the life of Jesus of Nazareth, a Jewish prophet.  His true message is best understood when embraced within its sacred Hebrew context.  In the tradition of Hebrew prophets before him, Jesus challenged his people to go beyond their fears and rituals to reclaim the Spirit of the Law as a means to know God.  Jesus calls us to radical, inclusive LOVE and the universal JUSTICE that grows from it.  Love and Justice liberate us from the illusion of separation, creating a sacred world community.


Tonight we light the Christmas Candle in our Advent Wreath in celebration of Christmas—the birth of Christ Consciousness…the realization of God expressing through humanity into the world, as revealed in Jesus of Nazareth…  



The youngest, and fastest growing of these Abraham traditions is Islam; which literally means the peace that comes from “submission to the will of Allah” ~ Allah being the Arabic word for God.


Islam offers a powerful challenge to our Western tradition that venerates FREEDOM… Yet, the WILLING SUBMISSION of our Will to God’s Will is the ultimate evidence of faith in God the Good—whose will is for our highest good and expression.  It is just such a surrender that a return to the sacred will initiate, as we mature from willful children into responsible stewards of creation.


I light this candle for the Peace of faith-filled surrender…


MUSIC – Thy Light Is In All Forms






Finally…I represent the People of the North who locate the sacred in knowledge.  We are the people of science.  We have recently been positioned in opposition to spirituality, but in fact—we have deep roots that suggest one can best know God by understanding Creation.  Copernicus, Galileo, and Teilhard de Chardin are but a few who honored God through the study of science.


Though there was a brief time that some thought scientific knowledge would resolve all of life’s mysteries, maturity has revealed that science does better to inform the spiritual journey rather than replace it…and that the Great Mysteries are beyond physical accounting.


Knowledge can, however, enlighten superstitions and prejudices with informed explanations and understanding.  This allows for increased tolerance and reduced fear.  But objective facts alone do not reveal Truth.  Factual knowledge can best be used to inform—not direct or control—our Sacred Quest for meaning, significance and transcendence.  Questions of Truth must include the transcendent realm…the gifts of mind and heart become balanced once again.


We LIGHT THIS CANDLE IN honor of the sacred gift of curiosity, that we can embrace knowledge to inform our Quest for Truth, while honoring the Great Mystery.




Having received these sacred gifts from these rich and diverse traditions, we will now share in a time of contemplation and reflection…opening our hearts and minds to LISTEN for the wisdom that will guide us forward in our sacred journey.


Meditation MUSIC…All Beings Know Love (in) 

Oneness meditation

Meditation MUSIC…All Beings Know Love (out) 




Before we symbolize this celebration of light with our candleliting…we have an opportunity to support this vision…to commit to it with time, talent and treasure…as you take your gifts in hand…repeat with me the offertory blessing:


May the Sacred Light bless and expand all that I give—as I become the light, love and peace I wish to see in the world.


Offering –

Special Music – Ring the Bells (Melissa Etheridge) – Dennis Hedlind, Richard Conklin & the Unity Choir




We will conclude our celebration with a candle-liting that symbolizes the light that shines in and through each and every one of us as we discover and align with that which is sacred in our lives.


Each candle has a blessing…especially for you…to remind you of this night and the Light you are—and the Hope we have kindled and the miracle seeds we have planted through this co-created NEW STORY that celebrates our diversity while recognizing our inherent interdependence and unity…


As the choir takes it place…and our ushers come forward now to light their candles from the UNITY candle …they will offer their light to the first person on each aisle who will in turn pass the light down their row…ALWAYS HOLDING THE LIT CANDLE UPRIGHT—and the unlit candle tipped so as to not drip hot wax…parents please assist your kids…


And, as you receive and pass this symbol of light…that is the SACRED HOPE of our future… I invite you to listen to this poem by Maya Angelou…


All candles lit…(Choir sings Peace Peace)


And Now, when you are ready, I invite you to take the Truth of this flame of Hope and Unity into your heart…extinguishing the flame which is only a symbol…of the True Light that lives in and expresses through each and every being…


Make a circle (or two) for our Prayer and Peace Song


As we conclude tonight…let us all join together in our Prayer for Protection…seeing the words embrace not only all of us here and all of our loved ones…but our entire world community as well…


Peace Song

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