The longest night of the year, the winter solstice, falls just before Christmas each year, marking the time in our part of the world, where there is the most darkness in those twenty-four hours that mark one rotation of the earth on its axis.
The Season of Advent, those weeks of preparation and waiting that occur each year before we celebrate the birth of Jesus, is one marked by the darkness of night, as the days grow shorter.
Creation invites us to live its rhythms, as we enter the season of winter, marked by less activity and rest in the natural world. Trees lose their leaves, bears hibernate, so much of life goes dormant, storing up and conserving energy for when Spring calls them to emerge.
However, we are not as likely to listen to those natural rhythms in our world today.
We fill Advent’s darkness with light and activity, as we have taken a season that was first meant for stillness and reflection, waiting and pondering, and have made it something wholly different.
Yet, if we pay attention to what is deep within us, we will find ourselves yearning for those natural rhythms, our spirits longing for space to be still, to reflect. We will intune our own need to sit in the darkness that surrounds, pondering the mystery of this life. We will feel how important it is to acknowledge the darkness within — our grief, struggle, sorrow, unease — as we hopefully await the promise of the light.
Christmas in so many ways is a joyful time of year, but as the years pass, as loved ones lost are deeply missed, as news of the suffering in our world hits close to home, as our own struggle or hurt looms large, it can also be a difficult time of year.
The news of the birth of Jesus Christ, delivered first to the Shepherds by the heavenly host was truly “good news of great joy”1, but we need to remember that news came to a people carrying their own grief, came to a world full of its own suffering, came to individuals who bore the signs of their own struggle and hurt.
It is important to not only bear witness to the light, to the joy of that good news, but to also claim the darkness, to lament what is still not as it should be in our lives and world.
For some time now, Christian communities have made space for this by holding an intentional service of worship on or near the longest night of the year, that provides worshippers a chance to gather together to lament, to acknowledge their grief, to hold up their concern for their lives and world.
Our Harvest Table worshipping community is creating such an intentional space, at our December worship gathering, this coming Sunday, December 19th, at 5pm in our sanctuary.
If there is a part of you that needs to steal away into the darkness to simply be still, to reflect, to wonder and ponder; if there is part of you that needs space to name and bear witness to the darkness within and the darkness without; if there is part of you that is yearning for comfort in response to your own grief, sorrow, unease or hurt — we invite you to join us this Sunday.
Christ first came to a “people who sat in great darkness”2, and met them right there.
He would meet each person he encountered right where they were and hold their hurt, their pain, their grief, their guilt with the same grace and love that sent him into the world.
Join us this Sunday, where Christ will do the same for us — meet us right where we are and hold whatever it is we bear with a love that knows no bounds and a grace that would find us anywhere.
1 | Luke 2:10
2 | Matthew 4:16