The Longest Night
In this holiday season, as we wish one another a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays,” there are people whose holidays may not be as merry or as happy as ours. That the poor and needy may not have a merry Christmas is obvious—but there are those struggling with the holiday season whose pain may not be as overt. I’m thinking about those who are grieving the loss of spouses, parents, grandparents, siblings, children, grandchildren, other relatives, and friends—their grief may be fresh and new, or it may be old and lingering. I’m thinking about those who are dealing with broken relationships—divorces, strained family relationships, broken or strained friendships, difficulties with co-workers, feelings of disconnection with groups or organizations; again, these may be new feelings, or they may be old ones. I’m thinking about those who may find themselves in less-than-healthy economic conditions—our finances (or lack thereof) definitely have an effect on how we feel. I’m thinking about families who have loved ones in our armed services who are deployed and won’t be home for Christmas—even though they may be more able to be in contact during the holidays, the absence of those loved ones will be keenly felt. And I’m thinking about those who are struggling during this season and perhaps just don’t know why!
Oftentimes we try to cheer up struggling people by coaxing or even pressuring them to put on a happy face—we essentially ignore their pain by trying to get them to embrace a false cheerfulness and quit bringing everyone else down. While our intentions are good, the truth is that we often make their struggle worse—they’re not really trying to bring everyone else down, but we add guilt to their burden and make them feel like no one really cares about what they’re dealing with.
Somehow the church needs to speak to those who are struggling in a truly Christ-like way, recognizing their pain while offering words of comfort and hope. And one way we can do this is through worship. On Saturday, December 21, at 7:00 p.m., we will introduce to our congregation and to the community “The Longest Night: A Service of Healing and Hope,” a worship experience intended, through Scripture, liturgy, and music, to offer comfort, hope, and encouragement for those who have struggles during the holiday season. December 21, the Winter Solstice, is indeed the longest night of the year and is so symbolic of the darkness through which many people are struggling during the holiday season. But even in the darkness of the longest night, the light of Christ shines, seeking to bring hope and healing to the lives of those who are hurting, and that’s the intention of this service. I’ve heard people call “The Longest Night” the “Sad Service,” but it’s not that at all—it’s a celebration of God’s love, peace, and hope that speaks to us even in the dark days and nights of our struggles.
So, if you’re among those who are wrestle with grief and pain during the holiday season, this service is for you, and I hope you will take advantage of it. If you know someone who is struggling during this holiday season, this service is for him or her, and I hope you will invite him or her to it. And even if you’re merry and happy during this season, and all is well with you and yours, you’re invited to this service, because you can be part of the offering of hope and healing we are seeking to share. Let’s offer together the light of Christ, so that no one has to dwell in the long night of struggle forever.