by: Jane Bishop Halteman
December 21, 2015
Late sunrises, early sunsets, the low arc of the sun across the sky each day, and lengthy noontime shadows declare the arrival of the winter solstice, marking the year’s shortest day and longest night.
It is during this season when merriment and festivity take center stage and our culture screams glitter, that many churches, including ours, have chosen to acknowledge with a longest night service that Christmas can be a bittersweet time for those suffering grief and loss, whether the anguish of broken relationships or lost loved ones, the insecurity of unemployment, the weariness of ill health, the pain of isolation, the aches of poverty, violence, injustice.
We will take time together to recognize our sadness and yearning to know God’s presence in the midst of pain Tuesday, December 22, at 7 p.m. Join us in the sanctuary to declare that we experience darkness in many ways, even (or perhaps especially) during our culture’s long holiday celebration encompassing Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. At this time of the year, when daylight diminishes to barely nine and one half hours, it can be difficult to picture six months from now when daylight will prevail once again for 15 to 16 hours.
Called a Blue Christmas service in some circles, the longest night observance offers space away from the constant December refrain reminding us that this is the season to be jolly. For some, this Christmas may be the first year without a loved one or a job or perhaps the first year with new knowledge of a serious health issue. For many, the season becomes a particularly difficult time as we try to balance painful losses even as others are celebrating their joy with family and friends.
As we move through this darkness of the winter solstice and begin the return to longer days and shorter nights, we pause during the longest night service to remember the dark times in our own lives and the lives of others. We will witness the lighting of our Advent wreath candles, with the first candle representing our own grief, the second our courage, the third our memories, and the fourth our love. Participants also will be offered the opportunity to light candles and plant them in sand to recognize burdens, griefs, sorrows, or whatever makes Christmas a “blue” time for themselves, others, and our world.
Join us to proclaim that, even in our despair, God promises to walk with us as we experience insecurity, grief, and isolation. We will find solace together in this hope, with prayer, scripture reading, music, and quiet time. If you know folks who are lonely or sad or disappointed, people who are suffering from the holiday blues, invite them to join us in this safe space where we will seek God’s comfort and embrace as we wait and watch together for the Dawn.