Montana’s Liberal Churches Get Together to Celebrate “Winter Solstice”

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You might have thought that the celebration held this time of year by Western Culture since at least circa 380AD was called Christmas in honor of Christ’s birth. But that holiday isn’t inclusive enough for Montana’s liberal churches.

In a scene that was almost farcical, Montana’s liberal churches are hosting a Christmas Winter Solstice celebration that will air tonight.

Today marks the so-called “Winter Solstice,” a predictable astronomical event that denotes the shortest period of daylight during the year. From here on out, the sun will stay out longer until the Summer solstice, which will occur on June 20.

Matt Davis, Reformed Baptist Church of Helena

Since at least the era known as B.C. (Before Christ), pagans around the world have been celebrating this day in places ranging from ancient Rome to Scandanavia and Germany. Most notably, the pagans of Scandanavia celebrated the holiday by lighting a “Yule log” in the fire and feasted while it burned. The specially-crafted log could take 12 entire days to burn out, which required a lot of feasting. Today, the “Yule log” tradition has integrated itself in various segments of professed Christianity.

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Helena hosted the Christmas Solstice event, entitled, “Light Leads in All Directions, a Statewide Interfaith Solstice Service.” It’s an annual tradition.

This year, however, it was doubtful that the tradition would go virtual, with its organizer, Wilbur Rehmann, telling the press that the thought of doing it on zoom was ‘depressing.’ However, the youth pastor of Shiloh United Methodist Church in Billings contacted him to encourage him to proceed.

The first solstice event in Helena was held when Rehmann strategized with Rev. Marianne Niesen, then ‘pastor’ at St. Paul’s, and members of Helena’s Jewish community. They wanted to “embrace the idea of creating an interfaith, multicultural celebration that welcomes all.”

The United Methodists and Jewish believers were joined by a Native American shaman who read an Indigenous creation account. You can watch the video below. A Unitarian-Universalist congregation also joined this year, as did as United Church of Christ congregation from Missoula.

You can watch the video below.

One might wonder what the Reason for the Winter Solstice Season is. Is there one? Merry Christmas, Montana.

The Montana Daily Gazette reached out to Pastor Matt Davis of the Reformed Baptist Church of Helena, whose religious columns are featured in the publication each Sunday.

Davis told the Gazette, “Although they ascribe meaning and significance to these various pagan traditions, it’s unclear what the significance actually is. Longer days? What does jazz music have to do with astronomical conditions?”

He continued, “When you don’t have Christ and your festive gathering is nothing but a funeral for dead religion, we should all wonder what the point is. The real tragedy isn’t that these supposed Christians have lost sight of Christ just at Christmas, but he’s largely absent from their churches 52 weeks a year.”

Davis went on, “The purpose of this season is to remember that the God the Son became incarnate, took on flesh, dwelled among men, and became a substitutionary atonement for our sins. That’s slightly more significant than a few extra minutes of sunshine.”

When asked if his church would consider participating in a solstice celebration, Davis responded, “Absolutely. Right after we break out our Festivus Pole.”




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