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St. Paul’s – Longest Night – December 22

Have you ever noticed that the holiday season tends to highlight whatever is most broken in our lives; our families, our bank accounts, dreams, friendships, our medical care, and most importantly, our hearts. During this pandemic so many of us feel inadequate, lonely, overwhelmed or just plain blue. 

When things get hard I have noticed that people respond in one of two ways – it’s all Fight or flight.  And this time of year is no exception.

You can usually identify the fighters by those who try a little too hard to glitz over the broken parts of their lives and hearts. These are the ones who will tough it out and put on a big, static, happy face, despite the desperation they feel in their hearts to be whole again. They will decorate the tree until you can barely see green behind all the ribbons and ornaments, they will buy too many gifts hoping to find the Christmas spirit in bestowing the perfect gift, and they will wear themselves out with the frenzy they create all around them as they attempt to create a perfect Pinterest holiday.

When asked how they are doing will always reply a little too brightly I am fine!  Fighters are hard to identify because they look happy, and they sound happy, but underneath all the ribbon and bows and twinkle lights, it is a different story, there is an underlying cry to rest, to acknowledge what is hurting in their lives.

The flight-ers are the easier group to pick out. They are the Scrooges, The ones who dismiss Christmas as a silly commercialization of a pagan holiday. They bah humbug all attempts at celebration and merriment, and tend to avoid decorations and iced cookies altogether most especially because of this pandemic.  But often even the flighters are more than just grumps. They are also broken-hearted souls, in need of an authentic Christmas spirit, and not just a dressed up, plastic-smile attempt at one.

Do you see yourself in these 2 descriptions? I know I do. I have occupied both of these attitudes. Often I swing between them both, creating a tornado of emotions that ends with me in a puddle of inconsolable tears on Christmas day.

My question for us this year is this: What if this Christmas we didn’t give in to the temptation to Fight or Flight? 

What if, instead, this Christmas, we rested?

What if we were able to rest in God’s love, his hope, his peace and his joy?

What if we allowed him to light a small light inside our hearts, a light that will break the yoke of our burdens? What if that small light warmed our hearts with hope and healing?

What if we celebrated the coming of Christ our savior, in his goodness and his mercy, just as we are with our broken hearts, our broken families, our broken bank accounts and our broken dreams?

What if, this Christmas we didn’t pretend – either to be fine or to not care?

What if we just entered Christmas as we are, where we are?

What if we leave here this evening living out the words of Isaiah – as people who have walked in darkness but who have seen a great light? 

And what if we let  that light lead us , flicker by flicker, to a place of  hope, to a place where we rest in the knowledge that God is with us, and that whatever else Christmas is, 

it is light.

It is presence.

It is hope.

I want to share with you a blessing prayer written by Jan Richardson…It is called a Blessing for the Longest Night.

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.

Merry Christmas my Friends.

May you rest in it, just as you are.