Many religions celebrate the end of the solar year during the time when the days are shortest, and we face long hours of darkness and cold. But the Solstice can also be a useful time for reflection on what was and what should be. This, I think, is where birth and renewal come in, where we cast away our old selves and take on a new face, new ideas and new directions for the coming year.
This is a useful process because it allows us to "kill our status quo," to change the norm of what we do, to question and challenge habits, to reconsider the costs and benefits of our actions.*
Interestingly, many people carry out rituals -- unchanging traditions -- around this time of year, but fewer people look at it as a time of rebirth.** (Or if they do, they take a superficial swipe at it; witness the surge in health club enrollments and "new year's resolutions.")
As many of you know, I am using this time as an opportunity to change directions on a few things, and it seems just so much easier when it's cold and dark outside; when few people are out there, watching what you do; when I face hours of darkness and contemplation. And so, I am also engaging in a little rebirth -- currently writing to you from Jakarta on the beginning of the longest trip I've taken for many years :)
Bottom Line: In many cases, the barrier between your status quo life and the life you want to lead is merely the decision to stop one thing and start another. Make some decisions right now, and experience rebirth.
* Since 2000, I have maintained "Kill Your Status Quo" as my personal website.
** Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, which implies a linear progression from that event, not a cycle of renewal...