Last night I went to a “Longest Night” service at my church. Held on the longest night of the year, just a few days before Christmas - with all the joy and promise the season brings, it acknowledged the pain that frequently, for some of us, goes along with it. It can be hard to enjoy the “forced fed fun” that surrounds the season: the parties and gatherings, the greetings and hugs. Sometimes it feels hollow or, honestly, forced. Whether it’s mental illness, loss, or the darkness and gloom that sucks the goodness of the season out of us, it can be a major challenge to keep a smile on your face, to go to the parties, and embrace others – covering the pain inside.
There wasn’t a lot of people at the service. I don’t know if that means there aren’t many of us that get sidetracked by pain (which would be wonderful!) or if it’s simply that many don’t want to acknowledge the pain that is felt. It doesn’t matter. For those of us there, it was a chance to acknowledge the pain and give it to God.
The service was simple, the message to hold on, Jesus is coming. I found myself in tears. When the pastor invited us forward for anointing and prayer, I was rooted to my seat. It was a time of vulnerability. For all I have accomplished this year, it gave me a chance to realize how the storms still rage around me. It brought forth the concern I have for my family who have their own storms to battle. And it gave me hope. It reminded me that the storms won’t last forever. There will be times of light and there is light at the end of the tunnel. It reminded me of the love and strength that is available to me. It was a time of catharsis.
The longest night is behind me. For the next 6 months, the days will get shorter. The sun will shine more often. God willing there will be longest nights ahead but I won’t face them alone. I’m reminded that Christmas is a time of waiting, of promise, of anticipation. In the midst of the bustle it is a time to rest in the knowledge that the bad times will end.
I hope for you this is a time of blessings. I hope you enjoy the festivities and feel the love around you. If you don’t, I just want to remind you that the longest night is behind us. Now is a time to remember. Remember that you are loved. Remember that you are not alone. Remember that the storm will end. Don’t let your desire to escape the storm rule you. Hang on, take heart and keep dancing.
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? 2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.[b]
3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises.[c] 4 In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. 5 To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.