Rethink Church
Advent & Christmas
Perspectives on the season
 

Today is the winter solstice. For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the December solstice marks the longest night and the shortest day of the year, while the Southern Hemisphere has its longest day and shortest night.

As we near the end of Advent and make our way closer to Christmas, it is a time of longing, anticipation and celebration. The season also reminds those who have suffered loss that they are without someone or something. 

Image: JanRichardson.com

You may know how this feels. Carols remind you of family gatherings while your aunt was still alive or of hosting Christmas dinner with your parents, visits with relatives on Christmas Day or happier times before the divorce. Sometimes, though it is the merriest of times, Advent and Christmas can stir in us emotions that we would rather not deal with or that some do not understand.

As congregations become more attentive to the needs of people who are remembering at Christmas, many are creating space for people living through tough times. Usually held on or near the winter solstice, a gathering called “The Longest Night” takes place. The services are reflective, while acknowledging where we are in our lives, still holding to hope that things will get better. Perhaps there is a Longest Night service happening in your area.

Today, as we walk with those who are experiencing loss – ourselves included – carry this blessing with you from Jan L. Richardson:

All throughout these months
as the shadows
have lengthened,
this blessing has been
gathering itself,
making ready,
preparing for
this night.

It has practiced
walking in the dark,
traveling with
its eyes closed,
feeling its way
by memory
by touch
by the pull of the moon
even as it wanes.

So believe me
when I tell you
this blessing will
reach you
even if you
have not light enough
to read it;
it will find you
even though you cannot
see it coming.

You will know
the moment of its
arriving
by your release
of the breath
you have held
so long;
a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
a thinning
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
around you.

This blessing
does not mean
to take the night away
but it knows
its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots
along the path,
knows what it means
to travel
in the company
of a friend.

So when
this blessing comes,
take its hand.
Get up.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.

This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.

Art and words ©Jan Richardsonjanrichardson.com

 

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