I’m getting ready for the Christmas Eve candlelight services at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto. It’s over seventy degrees and sunny, and while the sun was hitting my office window it got warm enough that I had to have the door open to cool off. At this point, some of you who live in places where it is now cold and dark and maybe snowy might be saying to yourselves, “Warm and sunny? That doesn’t feel like Christmas Eve!”
Ten years ago, I spent a year working part-time as the religious educator for Church of the Larger Fellowship, an online congregation that serves religious liberals around the world, including in the tropics and in the Southern Hemisphere. On my first week on the job, the senior minister and the administrator both warned me to remember that given our congregation it was a mistake to draw parallels between Easter and springtime, and between Christmas and the winter solstice. If I did so, I was further warned, I would be sure to get complaints from our members in places like Australia and New Zealand and equatorial Africa. That’s how I learned to be able to separate Christmas from the seasons.
Now that I’m in the Bay Area, however, I’m living in a so-called Mediterranean climate, a climate that is similar to the climate of Bethlehem and Nazareth (though we are farther north so we have much longer nights at this time of year). Our seasons correspond reasonably well with the seasons of ancient Judea. We’ve had a very dry year, so this year at Christmas because it’s sunny and warm we’re praying for the winter rains to hit — like the people of the Ancient Near East, we’re less concerned with snow and crackling fires and short nights, and we’re far more concerned with where our water is going to come from.
So this year here’s what I’m humming to myself:
I’m dreaming of a wet Christmas,
Just like the ones in El Nino years,
When the treetops glisten
And children listen
To hear raindrops falling near….