Today, December 21 is the winter solstice. It’s the shortest day/longest night of the year. For those who enjoy the drama and beauty of the delicate holiday lights twinkling in the night sky, this time of year is a delight. For those who live for sunshine and warmth…maybe not so much.
It’s no wonder to me that the early church located the birth of Christ at this time of year. The symbolism is powerful. The light of the world comes into being in the midst of darkness. God comes, not through the blaze of fire, or with the tremble of an earthquake or the boom of thunder. No, God comes in the quiet depths of winter, in the stillness of a manger. Christmas is a beautiful, meaningful ritual, full of warmth and deep joy.
Christmas is also a season when memories emerge and feelings can overwhelm like a surging wave, whether they are feelings of joy or gratitude or grief. While we are encouraged to share our joy and gratitude with others, grief is not always so welcome. Those who are experiencing grief this time of year are often inclined to isolate, fearing that their sadness will spoil the holiday mood.
If the holiday season is bringing up feelings of grief for you, know that you are not alone. There are many who can’t escape sadness at this time of year (even while they still feel joy). It doesn’t matter if the grief is from a loss this year or decades ago. For this reason, churches started to hold Longest Night services (also called Blue Christmas). Bringing our grief to God may be the only Christmas service some can attend this year, or it may be a service that will enable some to really enjoy the brighter parties, concerts, and worship services. Either way, it creates a community of people who understand and lift each other up.
Our Longest Night service will be tomorrow, Thursday, at 7 pm. I invite you to come for yourself or to come as a support for others. Invite a friend or family member. You might be surprised at how much more meaningful it makes the season look and feel.