Emerging from The Longest Night
The Christmas season is marked by expressions of joy, excitement, and happiness. It’s a time for family to gather and for churches to worship pointing to the hope that is found in the coming of the Christ in Bethlehem.
For many, merriment is put on hold as this time of joy and expectation is overshadowed by the pain and hurt which might have been experienced
during the past year.
December 21st, the winter solstice, also coincides with the old date
for the feast of St Thomas. It's quite a pertinent link, inviting us to make connection between Thomas's struggle to believe the account of Jesus' resurrection, the long nights just before Christmas, and the struggle with darkness and grief faced by those living with loss.
Generous and gracious God,
we look to you for compassion
and thank you for your presence this night.
Overwhelmed by our burdens we easily forget
that you never leave us alone
and that your steadfast love for us never falters.
By coming together we find assurance and comfort
that we do not suffer this longest night alone.
You have given us strength to live through this night.
Turn us to reach out to those whose night is also long.
Grant that we may be your healing presence in their lives
by bringing them your compassion and comfort
that will assure them that they do not suffer alone. Amen.
~ written by Quentin Chin, in Our Longest Night:
A Service of Hope at Christmas Time.
Advent Prayer, by Henri J.M. Nouwen
Lord Jesus, Master of both the light and the darkness,
send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do
seek quiet spaces to hear your voice.
We who are anxious over many things
look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways
long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy
seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness,
yet seeking the light.
To you we say,
"Come Lord Jesus!" Amen.
“Let the bells jingle” by Helen Jesty (Chaplain, Naomi House, at the time of writing)
Let the bells jingle but make time for the tears to fall. Eat, drink and be merry but do not go hungry in that inner place. Rest, reflect and remember. Be true to yourself.
Many of us can’t play happy families at this time of the year.
December is for a difficult diagnosis as well as dreaming of a white Christmas. December is for divorce as well as decorations. December is for death and dying as well as discos and dancing.
December is for distances that separate us from people, even those in the same room.
Disappointments in December are especially hard to bear. Sometimes the light no longer shines in the darkness.
The desolation swallows us up and we die a little.
Yet a kindly word, a bird in flight, a tree alive with hoar and hips can drown out despair and kindle determination to move on. Dig down deeper than the tinsel to the place where hope is found. Maybe, just maybe, the flickering flame will be fanned gently into fire.
There are certain songs played in stores and shopping malls that seem to get trotted-out year after year around Christmas-time. One of my least favourite is "Merry Christmas Everybody" by Slade. However, "I'm dreaming of a White Christmas" by Bing Crosby just makes me glow a little inside, taking me back to the childhood- anticipation of finding tangerines, chocolate coins, a book and a toy or two in my pillow-case (a stocking wasn't enough for me).
The antidote to "White Christmas" was a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, twentieth -century novelist, playwright, avant-garde poet. "Christ Climbed Down" depicts Jesus rejecting the shoddiness and emptiness of contemporary celebrations of Christmas, not to mention some of the shoddiness displayed by some commercially-driven prosperity-theology-motivated
leaders - "intrepid Bible Salesmen
...in two-tone pink cadillacs".
However, the Christ depicted here
is not beaten by this -
He is alive, capable of action,
and intending to come again!
"Christ Climbed Down...…."
Christ climbed down from His bare Tree this year and ran away to where there were no rootless Christmas trees hung with candycanes and breakable stars
Christ climbed down from His bare Tree this year and ran away to where there were no gilded Christmas trees and no tinsel Christmas trees and no tinfoil Christmas trees and no pink plastic Christmas trees and no gold Christmas trees and no black Christmas trees and no powderblue Christmas trees hung with electric candles and encircled by tin electric trains and clever cornball relatives
Christ climbed down from His bare Tree this year and ran away to where no intrepid Bible salesmen covered the territory in two-tone cadillacs and where no Sears Roebuck creches complete with plastic babe in manger
arrived by parcel post the babe by special delivery and where no televised Wise Men praised the Lord Calvert Whiskey
Christ climbed down from His bare Tree this year and ran away to where no fat handshaking stranger in a red flannel suit and a fake white beard went around passing himself off as some sort of North Pole saint crossing the desert to Bethlehem Pennsylvania in a Volkswagen sled drawn by rollicking Adirondack reindeer with German names and bearing sacks of Humble Gifts from Saks Fifth Avenue for everybody’s imagined Christ child
Christ climbed down from His bare Tree this year and ran away to where no Bing Crosby carollers groaned of a tight Christmas and where no Radio City angels iceskated wingless thru a winter wonderland into a jinglebell heaven daily at 8:30 with Midnight Mass matinees
Christ climbed down from His bare Tree this year and softly stole away into some anonymous
Mary’s womb again where in the darkest night of everybody’s anonymous soul He awaits again an unimaginable and impossibly Immaculate Reconception the very craziest
of Second Comings