• Cynthia McCarthy

Set 2018 On Fire

Christmas 2018 has come and gone. The presents are all opened, the candles are blown out, and the anticipation has come to an end. We celebrated the birth of Christ again, and for many, that’s really about a rebirth in us and a giant restart for humanity—a chance for us to be more consciously aware, to behave more like Jesus did, more like expressions of God in the world. Now the calendar tells us we are fast approaching the end of another year. 

This idea of winding down the year by thinking about a new beginning, making all things new, renewal and rebirth… is not limited to Christianity. Many faith traditions conduct ceremonies at this time of year in services that mark the occasion by releasing and letting go of the past. Some churches do this by having those present write things down on paper and burn it--using the powerfully symbolic element of Fire. The idea is, you write down the things you want to let go of and release, and you drop it into a ceramic or metal cauldron that has candles or a small fire burning in it. Sometimes it’s called a Burning Bowl Ritual, a Fire Ceremony or a Phoenix Ceremony.

While I highly recommend finding a Unity® church, Center for Spiritual Living™ center, or Unitarian Universalist community that offers a burning bowl experience, you also can mark this spiritual moment yourself at home.

Take a small piece of paper and write at the top: “Release and Let Go.” Then write down the things that you want to release in your life. Maybe you want to release old habits that no longer serve you. (Like eating junk food or drinking wine—remember we’re releasing something that no longer serves us, not judging ourselves. We’re coming from a different place.) You can release a mistake you made or a failure. You can let go of a limiting thought or fear that you have. Maybe you need to forgive someone or forgive yourself for something that happened this past year. Maybe you need to let go of a limiting relationship. Perhaps you’d like to release a work situation. It can be anything—maybe you want to release the physical pain of an illness, or sadness over something in your life, or financial issues, or the worry that surrounds that. What is it you most want to leave behind and give to God? This is where that saying Let Go, Let God comes in handy.

When you are ready to burn your piece of paper somewhere, in your fireplace, over a candle, or with a match over the sink—PLEASE BE SAFE! Most formal services use flash paper that disappears in an instant, but there is something meaningful about watching your words slowly burn away into ashes. The prayer is simple: God, (Mother, Father, Universe, Spirit, Source, insert-your-word-of-choice) I release this with joy because it no longer serves me. Thank you.

Focus on how you will truly feel without that old habit, without the burden of resentment, without carrying pain, sadness, or worry into the new year. Taking the time to prayerfully and symbolically burn these limitations away can be very cathartic and healing. As we continue to seek the hope and light of Spirit, we can consciously release the things that no longer serve us. 

May this exercise leave you feeling relieved and renewed.


Rev. Cynthia

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