About 10 years ago our church had a "Longest Night" service. The idea was inspired by a counselor friend of mine who told me about how her Methodist church acknowledges people's pain on the night of the winter solstice (December 21). As I researched for this church service I came across this meditation written by Rev. Diane Hendricks in 2001.
Longest Night Meditation
It's the most wonderful time of the year!
Only it's not.
- Not for everyone.
- Not when there is an empty chair at the table.
- Not when your body is ravaged with illness.
- Not when the depression is too much to bear.
- Not without her voice joining yours on the Christmas carols.
- Not when you feel all alone even in a crowd.
- Not when you are not sure you can even afford the rent or mortgage, let alone the presents.
- Not when they are trying their best to the best of you.
- Not when another Christmas party means he will come home drunk again.
No, it's not.
And trying to smile and say Merry Christmas is more than difficult. It's pretty near impossible.
C.S. Lewis once wrote:
"No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning..."It's the most wonderful time of the year.
Only it's not.
- Not after he has died.
- Not after the doctor gave you the news.
- Not after they told you they would be downsizing.
- Not after... you fill in the blank.
- Not after September 11.
- Not when there is so much violence and destruction in the world.
It is the story of a teenage girl, pregnant with a child that is not her husband's.
It is the story of a child born in a dirty animal stall.
It is the story of a family of refugees who had to flee their homeland so that their child would not be killed.
It is the story of one sent into the world in peace who was condemned to death.
It is the story of a light sent to shine in the darkness, which the world snuffed out.
It is the story of God's never-ending, self-giving mercy which was rejected and condemned.In the great work the Messiah, Handel quotes the prophet Isaiah, proclaiming that Jesus was "despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." One great theologian reminds us that we cannot come to the manger without acknowledging that it lays in the shadow of the cross.
It is not the most wonderful time of the year.
Only it is!
- If we forget about the tinsel and the trees.
- If we forget about the holly jolly tidings.
- If we forget about the presents and the ornaments and the trappings.
Remember the story.
- Mary was alone and afraid.
But God was with her and exalted her among women.
- Joseph was disgraced.
But God revealed in Joseph's cause for disgrace God's plan to save the world.
- The world was in darkness.
But God sent the light of life to shine.
- The lowly were imprisoned.
But Jesus set them free.
- The blind wandered aimlessly.
But Christ gave them eyes to see.
- The lame were rejected.
But through the Holy One they were made to leap and dance.
- The deaf were confined to the silence.
But the song of life unstopped their ears.
- The sorrowful grieved.
But God wipes away our tears.
- We were alone.
But in Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God is with us.
- The people rejected God.
But God embraces us.
- The world crucified Christ.
But God would not allow that to be the last word, and gave us the sure hope of the resurrection.
But because you don't.
You can have heavy spirits and shattered dreams. Broken hearts and deep wounds.
And still God comes to be with you.
- To comfort you.
- To redeem you.
- To save you.
- To restore you.
- To empower you.
- To strengthen you.
- To grant you peace.
- To be raised for you.
- To hold you in the communion of saints with those whom you have loved and lost.
- To store your tears in his bottle.
- To offer you eternal life.
For Christ is born.
Love has come.
God is with us!
Thanks be to the Lord our God.
Rev. Diane Hendricks
16 December 2001