Thursday, December 22, 2016

Blue Christmas

For those who have been diligent in these Advent readings, thank you for your patience these last few days. I have returned from my trip to Nashville and will be able to finish up the remaining days before Christmas.

Tonight is the longest night of the year, or the Winter Solstice. In the church year calendar some refer to tonight at Blue Christmas. It is a time to reflect and lament the hurt and brokenness that exists in the world, and acknowledge that our God hears and sees us calling out to Him in our deepest need. In one sense, it is the epitome of Advent.

This evening a group of friends from different churches across Chicago’s north side gathered to sing and pray and read scripture. At one point, we read the following liturgy that our hosts adapted from a Longest Night service at the University United Methodist Church of Las Cruces, New Mexico in 2013. The bold type indicates corporate reading.

When there was only chaos,
you whispered of your hopes,
God of every moment,
and light shattered the shadows,
water raced down the valleys,
creatures beyond imagination
grazed in the abundant fields.
You created all which is beautiful
for those shaped in your image,
but loneliness became our companion,
grief wrapped its arms around us,
fear sang its carols to us,
and our dreams turned to nightmares.

So that we would know you are with us
in these moments, these days, these lives,
you became one of us, Jesus walking among us,
reminding us of your promises to us,
not only in the songs of the angels,
but in the quiet whispers of hope
which are sung to us in the night.

You are not only holy, God of hope,
you know the pain we have felt,
you have mingled your tears with ours,
you have wept at the graveside of a loved One.

The angelic chorus told of your glory and wonder,
yet Jesus came to let us know of your compassion.
He could have remained safe in the cradle of grace,
but became as poor as we often feel.
He could have clothed himself in holiness,
but knew the humility of wondering
where his next meal might come from,
whether or not he had a place to sleep at night.
He could have trampled death and sin into the dust,
but let them have their way with him,
so that we might find the path
to life that is whole and complete,
where promises are fulfilled,
where hope is the bed
where we can rest our wearied souls.

We believe we will find acceptance,
because Jesus was rejected;
we trust we know new life,
because Jesus experienced our death;
we look to that day when all weeping is done,
when pain and loss is behind us and
we are welcomed into that kingdom called

As your Spirit moved upon the waters of creation,
filling them with life beyond imagination,
may it move upon the gifts of this Table.
We hunger for hope in the midst of despair,
for life when grief seems to never leave our side,
for wonder where there are only shadows,
and you feed us with that Life which
will never depart from us, but be with us
on this night and in all the moments to come.
Our souls are parched from the deserts of our lives,
we thirst for joy in a world burdened with sorrow,
the deep pools of love have gone dry,

and you hand us that cup of grace
which will never run empty
but will continue to fill us
the waters of life forever.

On this night,
remind us that your morning of hope
will come; in our sorrow,
wrap us in the swaddling cloths of healing;
in our loneliness, help us to find you
as the Friend who never leaves us;
in our loss, whisper to us your promise
that we will be fulfilled in the future you hold
before us in the longest nights.

God in Community, Holy in One,
be with us now and forever.

We finished the evening by singing Psalm 126 (All Those Who Are Weeping) by Molly Parden and Bifrost Arts. If you are experiencing any amount of suffering, sorrow, or lament, this song will put to words that which is hard to articulate.

Restore us, O Lord.

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