The Longest Night Service - December 16, 2015
We are here tonight to acknowledge the dark, to acknowledge that in a couple of days, December 22, we will traverse through the longest and darkest night of the year. There is no way to avoid it except to say we must just walk through it one foot in front of the other, until the dawn has come.
I think it is safe to say that often the dark is a place most of us really try to avoid. A cry comes out and you are awakened by a bad dream only to find yourself in a darkened room or maybe a wrong turn takes you down a street with no lights and no visible markers to show you the way home. Who would ever intentionally put themselves in that place? I dare say any of us would.
Because it exposes just how alone we are in life, when you cannot see the eyes of a trusted friend, or gaze upon something that brings you comfort. The dark renders us helpless because we have no control when we can’t see what is in front of us. There is no object to cast our eyes on to divert our attention so all there is left is to turn inward and that is something perhaps we want to avoid. It’s too painful, it’s too sad; it brings up old feelings or memories.
We avoid the dark because it is flat out frightening or depressing or sad. And the kicker is that most of us are in the dark, not of our own doing but because of some event that has taken place in our lives that has placed us there. The reasons vary; only you know why you are in that place. It doesn’t matter to me or to the person sitting next to you. What matters is you.
And what matters is how you choose to spend your time in the dark because that you do have control over. Will it be wallowing or wailing? Will it be filled with mindless activity or clawing your way out? Or might it be a place of peace and silence inviting you into a time of slow growth? Might it be for you a place of blessing?
I want to share a blessing written by Jan Richardson. Jan is an artist, writer and Untied Methodist ordained minister. I came across her work a number of years ago and it has touched me in many ways ever since. Tonight I’ll share her poem-blessing ‘A Blessing for Travelling in the Dark”.
What Jan acknowledges is that when you are in the dark you must go very slowly and intentionally, that each one of us has a different reason for being there and that it is not for anyone on this earth to move you on, it is your knowing and your task to move on into a new reality when you are ready.
But she does call forth a blessing for us acknowledging the darkness. And that is what is so beautiful about her poem.
It blesses your being, it accompanies you into whatever it is that you are feeling, it doesn’t abandon you and stays with you until you are ready to leave. I find that quite comforting.
And we need to remember that we are not alone, that there are others who can join you in the journey and that is why we gather here tonight. And God is with you ultimately, guiding, comforting and holding you.
May there be a blessing in our common dark places and may the God of verdant growth, of healing and hope settle gently within you.