12.20.18 … “be still and know I am God” …

Christmas Tradition #13: Acknowledging the Longest Night

In an earlier post (see below), I noted the connection between the winter solstice and Advent/Christmas. I have always had a love for the Christmas holidays, but as I have reached the end of an era, middle age, I realize that not everyone has wonderful holiday memories, and even if one does, they have experienced sorrow from the loss of a loved one, one lost because of the death or separation, and this loss has darkened the experience. And the darkness of the season often worsens the suffering of people dealing with depression and addiction. In addition many people struggle with faith and religion in their lives, in the church, in their families, in their communities and even in civilization. Add in the long cold dark, it’s no wonder that the “happiest time of the year” for many is the “hardest time of the year” for others.

Many churches, including First Presbyterian Church, now hold A Service of Wholeness and Healing on this night, the longest night. I went a few years back. I’m not really certain why. And I attended again tonight. I want to honor those that need to be acknowledged, those that need remembering and those that I need to remember and to remind myself of the beauty in the community that celebrates joy and giving.

I found this today by Jan Richardson, a Methodist minister:

A blessing for you, for the Winter Solstice. If you are traveling through a season of shadows, or know someone who is, this is for you. (And a blessed Summer Solstice to my friends in the Southern Hemisphere!)


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


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.

—Jan Richardson

from The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief

Afterwards, I went and quickly walked the labyrinth at Myers Park Baptist. It was a dark and stormy night. And I just repeated the Psalm which we communally had said in the First Presbyterian Church’s Service of Wholeness and Healing: “Be still and know that I am God.”

And I am repeating this quoted material from my earlier post on the relation between Advent and pagan festivals celebrating Winter Solstice because I think it significant.

“But when I began to study the ancient Celtic tradition, and its keen awareness of humanity’s deep, inner connections with the rhythms of the natural world, I began to slowly realize how beautifully aligned the symbolism of the Advent season is to the imagery of the natural season leading to the Winter Solstice — the play of light and dark, the waiting, even a kind of deep and prophetic longing.

For the word “advent” literally means “the coming,” and, in this sense, these weeks in December are indeed a time of advent for all of us — whether we consider ourselves religious or not. The light is coming. All of Creation — and we — wait together for that coming.

What a not-to-be-missed treasure the natural season of Advent can be then, when the nascent light inside each of us can turn to, and answer, the promises of light surrounding us everywhere in the December dark: the whisper of candlelight from darkened windows, the blue-black light of dusk against the silhouetted trees of winter.

This is Advent — when as sleepers we awaken to our own light of love deep within us, waiting to be reborn again in the dark stables of our own souls.”

Source: Finding Ancient (Pagan) Meaning in the Darkness of Advent | The On Being Project, https://onbeing.org/blog/finding-ancient-pagan-meaning-in-the-darkness-of-advent/

Again, I repeat, “Be still and know that I am God.”


And here is another blog post I think worthy of your time:

Tomorrow marks the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Or the longest night. Many churches have “Longest Night” services during Advent, remembering those who grieve a loss during this season.

 It’s not a coincidence that Christmas falls so close to this longest night. We have no idea on which day Jesus was born. In the fourth century, when the calendar of the Roman empire was being Christianized, they picked December 25, which for pagans was the feast of Sol Invictus, the “unconquered sun,” which began at this point to rise more forcefully day by day, not defeated by the darkness. Probably a bit of calendar confusion, as for them the 25th was that longest night. Christians linked this idea of ever-lengthening day to Christ.

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December 2018

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