Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Longest Night is Over; Watch for the Light!

Last night I held a Longest Night Service at my church. December 21, the winter solstice, more hours of darkness than any other night of the year.

I did my 1st one last year as a response to the heaviness and grief I was experiencing with the weight of all that had happened in the life of my church. Before any of the **** hit the fan with Frank I was exhausted. I remember lounging in my PJs on December 25 grateful that at least on this one day I could rest.

In 2004 in addition to the normal day to day things in the life of a church, from August through December I conducted a number of funerals that were painful and emotionally draining. I do not begrudge the job, it was an honor to walk with each person as they faced their grief; but because I was tired – and probably not acting out of my best self at all times – I too was in a state of grief and shock along with them. The December weather was also particularly dark and dreary, that coupled with the red and green commercialism found at every street corner wore on me. I had no motivation to do anything than what was necessary.

Darkness surrounded me.

In other words *I* needed to find hope and thought that it was a journey that others needed to be invited along on too. It was not enough to be present in church to watch the Advent wreath gain a candle each Sunday in Advent. I *was* watching for the light, but even for me, it can be hard to see the light for all the darkness that surrounds us.

So, a Longest Night Service. I first heard of it when a dear departed friend, Sara Fleming, conducted one at my parent’s home church. It is a service geared toward those who are seeking peace and calm in the midst of all the hustle/bustle/ho ho ho ness of this season. Particular attention is paid to those for who have experienced a loss of any kind. Perhaps this is the 1st year without a loved one, or the 10th and every year is difficult because of the grief that precious memories can stir in one’s hear.

For all that has happened to us personally in the past 12 months I am a bit surprised that I can say that I am in a much better place this year than last. I am enjoying listening to holiday music and a bit put-out that the radio stations I listen to are not playing more of it this week.

I'll admit I am a bit melancholy as we begin to recount the “on this day last year we found out ____ about Frank” but know too that I have always been prone to reflection about where I’ve been and where I’m going. It's part of being me. As for where we are going…I am wondering what wild and crazy thing we can do to mark the year anniversary of Frank’s diagnosis…we’ll see.

But I digress….For me things are different this year. I’m not waxing for things that I did in the past:

I gave my self permission to NOT put up a Christmas tree. We – I ;-)– hadn’t for two years and I’d felt bad about it – up to this year. I made a conscious choice to enjoy what others were able to do and not worry about being able to keep up with them; a girls gotta sleep ya know.

I set out a simple advent wreath at home. I light it on the Sunday afternoons that I remember (I’ve had a bad cold all December and the cold meds have made me a bit loopy), if I forget, oh well, it is not a reason to kick myself. Seriously. None of this "I wish I could have at least remembered to do that!" stuff.

AND I have also given myself permission to not worry about sending out a Christmas letter, or even and Epiphany letter (January 6, some pastors I know who in their busy-ness don’t get a Christmas letter out, opt for getting them out on the day the wise men arrived, the 12th day of Christmas or Epiphany), we will continue to blog and keep you, our friends, family and others in this journey of life with and after cancer informed.

Perhaps it is a new / different perspective? Is it having walked through the ambiguity of disease? Is it b/c I have finally gotten to a place of maturity where I really am able to let things go and just be to be? Maybe I am beginning to be able to prioritize that which is truly important and do that which makes my heart sing. (What I encouraged each of you to do.)

Following is the poem that graced the cover of our service bulletin. It is my prayer for each of you.

The Christmas Spirit
Is that hope
Which tenaciously clings
To the hearts of the faithful
And announces
In the face
Of any Herod the world can produce
And all the inn doors slammed in our faces
And all the dark nights of our souls
That with God
All things are possible,
That even now
Unto us
A child is born!

Grace and Peace to each of you this Christmas.

-The Rev.