Toward a New Cosmology: Advent 2011

Progressive, non-theistic Christians may wonder what is the point to Advent in the 21st century. There were no angels bringing astounding news to an unmarried girl; there was no “virgin birth.”  But in Luke’s story, there was a subversive undertone.  As foretold by the Hebrew prophets, and prayed for by Luke’s contemporary Jewish friends, because God is just, and the world belongs to God (not Caesar) God took direct action against the oppression of the Roman Empire.  In a parody of the story of Caesar’s birth, Jesus of Nazareth was heralded by angels, and born of a virgin.  We can still hope for direct action against oppressive Empire and for distributive justice-compassion; against a greed world and for a share world; against zero-sum gaming of every system devised by humanity, and for a radical abandonment of self-interest.

In a series of essays (Coming Back to Earth: From gods, to God, to Gaia) Lloyd Geering describes a spiritual and religious progression in human consciousness.  Pre-modern people lived in what might be called an enchanted world, in which everything from the rocks, the rivers, the trees, to animals, birds and humans – embodied spirit.  This was followed by the so-called “axial age” when people realized there was a difference between living creatures and inanimate objects, which gave rise to the paradigm-shifting concept of one god.  Geering brings humanity full circle from the enchanted world of pre-modern people living a seamless existence, not separated from the natural world, to the possibility of a re-enchanted world, in which“secular” means –once-again – earth-centered.  He concludes: “We came from the earth.  We remain creatures of the earth.  The hope of our species for a viable future depends on our mystical re-union with the earth.”

In The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, Matthew Fox writes:

        It is not enough to celebrate the Cosmic Christ as “the pattern that connects” and the “bearer of coherence” as expressed in Jesus.  There is a real sense in which the Cosmic Christ is not born yet.  Even in Jesus the Cosmic Christ has yet to come to full birth, for those who say they believe in Jesus have scarcely brought forth the Cosmic Christ at all on the mass scale that Mother Earth requires.  One might speak, then, of the already born Cosmic Christ (realized eschatology) who we see only “in a mirror and darkly” (1 Cor. 13:12) and of the not-yet-born Cosmic Christ (unrealized eschatology) who is the Christ of justice, of creativity, of compassion in self and society that yearns to be born and is eager to be born in us.  “What good is it to me,” Meister Eckhart asked, “if the son of God was born to Mary 1400 years ago but is not born in my person and in my culture and in my time?” . . . The name “Christ” means “the anointed one.”  All of us are anointed ones.  We are all royal persons, creative, godly, divine, persons of beauty and of grace.  We are all Cosmic Christs, “other Christs.”  But what good is this if we do not know it? . . . We are all called, like the Cosmic Christ, to radiate the divine presence to/with/from one another.  pp. 136-137.

So here is the raw material from the natural world for a 21st century cosmology that can apply to Advent and Christmas 2011 – We will not see this sequence again for many earthly years:  The Full Moon December 10 wanes to Dark December 23, is “void of course” and sun-synchronous so still invisible at the New Moon 1:06 p.m. (U.S. EST) December 24 – Christmas Eve.  The Sun wanes, the light vanishes, the Earth pauses in its eliptical swing out, pivots, and starts around the other side of our life-giving star.  The Winter Solstice – when the Sun stands still – happens at 12:30 a.m., December 22 (mid-Atlantic U.S.) and seems to last until early January.  Here’s why (from

The December solstice marks the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere and longest day in the southern hemisphere. But the earliest sunset – or earliest sunrise south of the equator – seems to defy logic when it happens before the solstice.  The key to understanding is to focus on what is called true solar noon – the time of day that the sun reaches its highest point, in its journey across the sky, not the clock time of sunset.  In early December, true solar noon comes nearly 10 minutes earlier by the clock than it does at the solstice around December 21. With true noon coming later on the solstice, so will the sunrise and sunset times.  This discrepancy between clock time and sun time occurs primarily because of the tilt of the Earth’s axis and the Earth’s elliptical orbit around the sun. Because Earth’s orbit is not a perfect circle, when Earth is closest to the sun, our world moves fastest in orbit. Our closest point to the sun (perihelion) actually comes in early January. So we are moving fastest in orbit around now, slightly faster than our average speed of 18 miles per second.
The precise date of the earliest sunset depends on the latitude. At mid northern latitudes, it comes in early December each year. At northern temperate latitudes farther north – such as in Canada and Alaska – the year’s earliest sunset comes around mid-December. Close to the Arctic Circle, the earliest sunset and the December solstice occur on or near the same day. The latest sunrise also comes in early January.  The exact dates vary, but the sequence is always the same: earliest sunset in early December, shortest day on the solstice around December 21, latest sunrise in early January.

This may be why our human ancestors – tied to an earthly point of view – thought that the sun stands still at the Winter Solstice.  Fires were lit, sacrifices made, to make certain the sun would continue its journey, and the light would return.

Progressive Christians can use our 21st century, post-modern, post-enlightenment sophistication to find earth-based metaphors for a kenotic god, whose presence is justice and life, and whose absence is injustice and death.


WELCOME – Explain the evening.
Four altars will be established at the cardinal directions.  Room is set in a quartered circle, with four pathways and a center open space.  In the center will be a Central Candle.  A hooded figure enters, riding a hobby horse (a broom horse).  The Hobby Horse goes to each of the four altars and invokes the directions, beginning with the North:  Tune played with recorder and/or violin: Abbot Bromley’s Horn Dance.  As the hobby horse arrives at each altar, the tune stops while the spirit is invoked, then starts up again until the hobby horse arrives at the next altar . . . etc.
ONE: [Approaches the North portal
Spirit of the North Stone
Ancient One of the Earth
I Raise You and Call you to attend this Circle
ALL: Charge This by your Powers, Old Ones!
[The North Candle is Lit]
ONE: [Approaches the East portal]
Spirit of the East Stone
Ancient One of Air,
I Raise you and Call you to attend this Circle.
ALL: Charge this by your Powers, Old Ones!
[The East Candle is Lit]
ONE: [Approaches the South portal]
Spirit of the South Stone,
Ancient One of Fire
I Raise you and Call you to attend this Circle
ALL: Charge this by your Powers, Old Ones!
[The South candle is lit]
ONE: [Approaches the West portal]
Spirit of the West Stone,
Ancient One of Water
I raise you and call you to attend this circle
ALL: Charge this by your Powers, Old Ones!
[The West Candle is lit] – the Hobby Horse takes a seat
INVOCATION OF THE GODDESS AND THE GOD [from the central altar]:
ONE: Gracious Goddess You who are the Queen of the Gods, the lamp of night, the creator of all that is wild and free; Mother of woman and man; lover of the Horned God and protectress of all the People, Come to us and bring your Lunar ray of power upon our Circle here.
ONE: Blazing God You who are the King of the Gods, Lord of the Sun, master of all that is wild and free, father of woman and man, lover of the Moon Goddess and protector of all the People, Come to us and bring your Solar ray of power upon our Circle here.
PROCESSION (9 people, each carrying an unlit votive or tea light come in, and take places in the front rows, surrounding the central altar)
Congregational Hymn: On This Day Earth Shall Ring (Personent Hodie)
CELEBRANT: Think of a time, not so very long ago, when all you knew was what you saw happening around you. The seasons come and go; the moon waxes and wanes; the sun rises and sets; the stars circle the heavens above, the earth sits solidly below, and under the earth is the realm of the dead. The Druids tell us that the fires we light on the hilltops call the Sun into its journey through our skies. As the Winter approaches, the Sun retreats as the God sends his power elsewhere. Perhaps he visits the Underworld? Perhaps he will not return. In the very early times we turned to the Moon Goddess for light to hunt the deer and the boar. Their rich fatness kept us warm as we waited to see if the God would return.
SONG: In the Bleak Midwinter (Verse 1)
CELEBRANT:We gather in the early morning darkness to watch where the light will fall as the Sun rises this day. The Druids tell us that the SunМs first ray will fall precisely in the center of the Temple we have dug into the Hill. Listen to the Story:
READING: “Sun” from The Universe Story (Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, Harper SanFrancisco, 1994) pp. 63-79
When the universe flared forth it was capable of a particular spectrum of activities. When the laws for the fundamental particles were stabilized, the universe’s capability for creative action advanced to a new set of rich possibilities … In the Milky Way galaxy four and a half billion years ago, the disc of stars was relatively rich in all the elements. Rushing through this sea were two great spokes of density… whose velocity at the edge of the Milky Way was 20 miles per second. As these invisible waves spun, they drew forth millions of star bursts, each new star with its own particular destiny. But now we focus on one branch of this galactic evolution, the one leading to our Sun. In the area of space-time where the sun emerged, the density wave passed through every one hundred million years. The most massive stars exploded as supernovas and enriched the interstellar matter. By the time of the Sun’s birth, perhaps one hundred passes of the star-making wave had occurred. Eventually a wave swept through that triggered the burst of some ten thousand stars all at once. … One of these subclouds was destined to become the Sun of our solar system … This formation would be finished in five hundred thousand years. The subcloud, freed from interactions with the others, gathered itself into a state of increasing nonequilibrium; matter fell into a center, creating a great deal of heat that radiated out from the collisions. After several hundred thousand years, the central core became thick enough to trap its own light and began to heat up even more rapidly. … The pressure of the plasma core grew to match the gravitational pressure. When the temperatures reached ten million degrees, the hydrogen at the center began to form helium. Our Sun was born….
[Light the Central Red Pillar Candle]
The vast majority of the gas that did not make its way to the Sun’s core … was blown off, but not all. Spinning around the Sun was a disc of the original subcloud just large enough to resist these cosmic rays from the Sun. Only one one-hundredth the size of the Sun a cool remnant of the subcloud, a hanger-on, a residue, something left over when the main action of the star formation was finished this swirling disc of elements gave birth in time to Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.
[As each planet is named, each one carrying a votive or tea light will light them from the central candle and place them around the central Red Candle
CELEBRANT: We are overwhelmed by this story. We cannot understand it. We have a nagging fear that our personal gods are too small to have created such a Universe. We fall into despair and make agreements with the ones who profess to mediate, or who claim the power to walk between the worlds of Spirit and Waking Consciousness. Soon our Chieftains and High Kings claim Sovereign power for themselves, and we are disenfranchised. We repudiate the Old wisdom and accuse our mystics of heresy.


All: Our Sun is dark. Our light is gone. How can we sing our sacred song?
One: War, famine, disease and death; Poverty, injustice, despair surround us.
All: Our Sun is dark. Our light is gone. How can we sing our sacred song?
One: The land is silent, the birds have flown, we have nothing to call our own.
All: Our Sun is dark. Our light is gone. How can we sing our sacred song?
One: We cannot breathe the stagnant air; the waters do not refresh us.
All: Our Sun is dark. Our light is gone. How can we sing our sacred song?
[Silence 3 minutes]
READING “Before Time Was” (Wicca for the Solitary Practitioner, Scott Cunningham)
Before time was, there was The One; The One was all, and all was The One. And the vast expanse known as the Universe was The One, all-wise, all-pervading, all-powerful, eternally changing. And space moved. The One molded energy into twin forms, equal but opposite, fashioning the Goddess and the God from The One and of The One. The Goddess and the God reached out and gave thanks to The One, but darkness surrounded them. They were alone, solitary, save for The One. So They formed energy into gasses and gasses into suns and planets and moons; They sprinkled the Universe with whirling globes and so all was given shape by the hands of the Goddess and the God. Light arose and the sky was illuminated by a billion suns. And the Goddess and the God, satisfied by their works, rejoiced and loved and were one. From their union sprang the seeds of all life, and of the human race, so that we might achieve incarnation upon the Earth. The Goddess chose the Moon as Her symbol, and the God the Sun as His symbol, to remind the inhabitants of Earth of their fashioners.  All are born, live, die, and are reborn beneath the Sun and Moon; all things come to pass thereunder, and all occurs with the blessings of The One, as has been the way of existence before time was.
READING:    Luke 2

HYMN:       Silent Night
LITANY (John 1:1-5 from The Five Gospels (Robert Funk and The Jesus Seminar, Westar Institute 1995))
One: In the beginning there was the divine word and wisdom. The divine word and wisdom was there with God
All: and it was what God was.
One: It was there with God from the beginning.
All: Everything came to be by means of it; nothing that exists came to be without
its agency.
One: In it was life,
All: and this life was the light of humanity.
One: Light was shining in the darkness,
All: and darkness did not master it.
SONG:     Twas in the Moon of Wintertime
SONG:     Joy to the Earth (from Songs for Earthlings Emerald Earth Publishing, 1998)
Joy to the earth, the Light returns
And sunlight fills the air
The tide has turned, the Sun has been reborn
And hope is everywhere, and hope is everywhere,
And hope, and hope is everywhere.

Dark ruled the Earth and Death has reigned
But on the wheel does spin.
From out the womb of night
Is birthed the Infant light.
The Sun has come again, the Sun has come again,
The Sun, the Sun has come again.

ONE: Gracious Goddess
We thank you for attending our Circle. Go if you must, stay if you will. Blessed Be.
ONE: Blazing God
We thank you for attending our Circle. Go if you must, stay if you will. Blessed Be.

The Hobby Horse closes the directional portals:
[Approaches the West portal]
Spirit of the West Stone,
Ancient One of Water
Take your leave with our gratitude
[The West Candle is extinguished]
ONE: [Approaches the South portal]
Spirit of the South Stone,
Ancient One of Fire
Take your leave with our gratitude
[The South candle is extinguished
ONE: [Approaches the East portal]
Spirit of the East Stone
Ancient One of Air,
Take your leave with our gratitude
[The East Candle is extinguished
ONE: [Approaches the North portal]
Spirit of the North Stone
Ancient One of the Earth
Take your leave with our gratitude
[The North Candle is extinguished]
SONG: The Wexford Carol

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