I’ve long experienced Christmas as a poignant, nostalgic time, a time of joy as well as a time of longing. Perhaps I was set-up by the notion that Christmas was supposed to be magical. However, magic doesn’t last forever. The day was over too fast, like the dinner that took hours to prepare and minutes to devour. Songs like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” and “Mary Did You Know” best capture the feeling.
The Christmas story is poignant, full of longing, danger, loneliness and loss. When Jesus was just 40 days old, Simeon’s words to Mary, “A sword will pierce your own soul too,” no doubt pricked her heart time and again. There was no magic in the first Christmas, but plenty of mysterious presence and angels singing. I suspect that her “pondering” was full of questions, struggles, and uncertainties.
Mary had no idea when she said, “let it be with me according to your word,” what lay ahead. I had no idea what lay ahead when I planned a Blue Christmas Gathering for St. Paul’s, and a “Longest Night” service with some Woodstock colleagues for our congregations and community (link below), that my sister would die on December 2. These services, it just so happens, served me. They might serve you as well.
In this darkest time in a century, we are painfully aware that this Christmas, some tables will have empty chairs and many people will not have the resources to meet their basic needs, let alone cover gifts. And yet, in the midst of these challenges, there is a mysterious presence, God-with-us, that brings joy and peace and hope. Mary, I think, would understand a Blue Christmas/Longest Night Service, as she understood that the fullness of life is real life in all its glory and grief.
Tonight is the longest night of the year for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. Here in Woodstock, the sun will set at 4:56 pm and we will have 13 hours, 33 minutes of night. In the midst of that night, a stellar convergence will occur when Jupiter and Saturn will be the closest to each other since the 1600’s. Astronomers call this the Bethlehem Star. If you check out the sky to the south west after sunset, you might see this hopeful reminder of another star that stopped over the place where Jesus lay. And then, by God’s grace, the sun will rise tomorrow morning at 7:30 am.
Peace on earth – and peace within to all people – including you and me. ~ Anne
Here is the link for the Longest Night Service: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-uVuYWciX9wH_UaUqvMBkwTu1BSoylOQ/view?usp=sharing