Saturday, December 24, 2011

Blue Christmas

Every year my church has a Blue Christmas service, which is especially for people who are having a hard time during the holidays because of grief, or some other kind of hardship. Sometimes all the chirpy carols are unhelpful, and people need a minute of somberness in the midst of all the joy. With permission from my friend Lee, whose story inspired the intro illustration, I'm sharing my sermon here. 

My friend Lee, who is a pastor in North Carolina recently wrote this story:
“After two and a half months of getting up to feed my new son Jonathan at least once a night, I pretty well have the routine down. So when he woke up last night around 4:00, I did my usual – I dragged myself to vertical, reached for my glasses, stumbled sleepily into his room, and brought him back to into my bed to nurse. He ate well, but something felt a little bit off – I had to turn on the light midway through to get him positioned right, and when I took him back to change his diaper, everything felt a little foggy – but I couldn’t figure out what the problem was until I swaddled him back up, laid him in the crib, and went into the bathroom, where I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

I was wearing my sunglasses. In my pajamas. In the middle of the night. While feeding and diapering my baby.”

Grief can be like that. The world can look almost right, but have a sort of heaviness, a fog over it that affects how everything looks. Even in the midst of Christmas cheer, you can feel remote and detached, distanced from the happiness around you. The familiar Christmas songs can make the loss of your loved one more pronounced and the familiar rituals can feel hollow without the one with whom you made them.

People all over the world are struggling at this time. Some because of death of a loved one or a relationship, others because of loss of a job or home, others because life isn’t going the way they thought it would or should. Some people continue to battle chronic pain and illness. Life can feel very uncertain and unsteady. That isn’t all that different from the world into which Christ was born.

When the time came for Christ to be born, an angel of the Lord came to the people where they were. The angel did not come into a special fancy place or to the temple during holy worship. The angel came to the people in their regular life, to intervene and tell them good news. With the angel came the glory of the Lord which shone around the people. They were terrified at what this could mean, but the angel reassured them that good news of great joy was coming, a newborn king, one who would bring light into the world, light that darkness cannot overcome.

The promise was that the darkness cannot overcome the light. No matter how dark, no matter how terrible or hard or painful, the light will shine into it. The light cannot overcome the darkness, but it can continue to shine into the darkness, a hope and promise for better days.

The light of the Lord is coming, to shine in the darkness. The light of the Lord will banish every tear, strengthen every heart, bind up every wound. The light of the Lord, come as a baby, will continue to the cross and the promise of eternal life for all who call upon the name of the Lord.

Each year we remember the angels coming to Earth to proclaim the miracle, that God himself was coming to Earth, to experience all the things we experience in our human lives. God himself would experience the joy of love, the pain of separation, the weight of sin on people’s lives, hard choices, fear, doubt, loss, hope, and peace.

Several hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, the writer of Ecclesiastes wrote about life and time. He wrote:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Tonight is a time to let your soul rest, to not feel a burden of experiencing these holidays in any particular way, but rather, if you need, to grieve a little. Whatever brought you to this service, you can bring it to the Lord at this time. God already knows the burdens on your heart, and promises his Son, the Light of the World, will shine into the darkness. No matter how deep the darkness feels, it will never overcome that light. Let us pray:

Prayer from Ted Yoder, Guerrillas of Grace
O God of all seasons and senses, grant us the sense of your timing
to submit gracefully and rejoice quietly in the turn of the seasons.
In this season of short days and long nights, of grey and white and cold,
      teach us the lessons of endings; children growing,  friends leaving,
                  loved ones dying, grieving over, grudges over, blaming over, excuses over.
          O God, grant us a sense of your timing.
                            (Time for silent prayer)
In this season of short days and long nights, of grey and white and cold,
          teach us the lessons of beginnings;  that such waitings and endings may be the starting place,
                  a planting of seeds which bring to birth what is ready to be born--
      something right and just and different, a new song, a deeper relationship, a fuller love
                                           in the fullness of your time.
               O God, grant us the sense of your timing.
                                            (Silent Prayers)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. I love to hear from you.