Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Little More Light


At my church last night we celebrated a service of the Longest Night, held every year on the winter solstice. The Solstice's are important times for us here in the far north. It matters greatly to us that there will be more light today (11 seconds more!) than there was yesterday and that we are headed out toward the light. We will need this hope and awareness for January tends to be a long, dark and cold month. People who can, fly away to warmer climes. Some of us, strange as it may seem, actually seem to thrive in the dark. I have found a few kindred souls who love the darkness of winter, but I'm pretty sure that I am in the minority.

The purpose of the service that we hold each December 21 is to create a space around the Holidays in which we acknowledge that in the midst of holiday activities, people are hurting. In fact, almost all of us are hurting in some way. Some have acute grief or chronic pain or deadening depression. Some are struggling with the same old dysfunctional relationships, addictions, and heartaches. Some of us simply feel restless, dissatisfied and confused. I, personally, have been having a hard time maintaining hope in the face of so much bad news in our country and around the planet. And so this service creates a container in which we can share our aches, acknowledge that there is joy in this season but there is also deep sorrow. Our service provides a safe place in which to feel that sorrow.

One of the beautiful souls of our congregation told us her story. When her boys were 4 and 1, she found out that both of them had Muscular Dystrophy. Both of them. A fatal disease. No cure. She was pregnant with her 3rd child, also a boy. He did not carry the gene for the disease and so he is still alive today, but she lost the other two, both at the age of 17. Through her tears she told us of the pain and the grief, but the word that she used much more often was joy. How much joy she had in her life and also how sure she was that God loved her. I am in awe of this soul and grateful for her presence here with us.

It was a very beautiful service and also quite sad. Many tears were shed. But it also contained great hope. Hope in ourselves, in our courage and our strength. Hope in our community as we stand beside each other in our darkest nights admitting that we don't have the answers. And ultimately the Hope that we have in God.

As I looked around me last night, as I live my life with a faith community, as I read many of your blogs and watch your struggles and rejoice at your insights and creativity, I realize that many of us are living as though we really truly believe that there is a force in this universe that truly loves us, that empowers us to keep getting up, dusting ourselves off and trying again to bring a little more love into this world.

You know, to keep trying and to keep believing in the face of the great darkness that we sometimes face is no small thing. It is nothing short of a miracle.

We end our service every year with the song Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles. I can't tell you how it lifts the darkness and brings back our hope.

Here comes the sun,
here comes the sun,
and I say it's all right

Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun,
here comes the sun
and I say it's all right

Little darling,
the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling,
it seems like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun,
here comes the sun
and I say it's all right

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it's all right
It's all right
The Beatles

9 comments:

Barbara said...

Thank you so much, Rebecca, for sharing that beautiful service with us all. We could use something like that here in Montreal. And what an appropriate song to end up with!

We all have to learn to walk in the dark, to fly by night. (stolen from John of the Cross and paraphrased).

Nichol said...

I am sad that I was not there to hear her speak. I have always been in awe of her and I think her story is both unimaginable and amazing.
Thank you SO much for talking about the Longest night service. I only went once but I loved it so very much.
hugs

smiles4u said...

That service is one of the coolest things I've ever heard! We could use something like that here in Minnesota. :) Even though I don't go to church anymore, something like this service would help many people I know. I like that people can be real about what they are dealing with, whether it be depression, pain or addiction. I can relate to the joy that this woman spoke of...I do know the joy that comes in the midst of heart break and it is a beautiful and wonderous thing. I love that you end your service with Here Comes the Sun.

I really like how you write. Glad I found my way here. :) I feel blessed to have read this tonight. Thank you! XX Lori

Rebecca Johnson said...

Barbara, I do feel that it would probably be a good thing for almost every church to offer something like this. Another church that I know in town offers something similar but calls it "Blue Christmas" and it comes after Christmas. One of the things that I like best about our service is that we completely separate it from Christmas. We never mention Christmas or bring in carols. We put the decorations away from the altar as much as we can. It has nothing to do with Christmas, really. It's just about the night. I like that.

Rebecca Johnson said...

Nichol, It was a story that breaks every mother's/father's heart as I knew it would. But it wasn't heavy or hard to listen to. Just hopeful. Lynda is such a gift to the world. And so are you!

Love....

Rebecca Johnson said...

Lori,
I am so grateful that you are stopping by and finding something here that resonates! I am so happy that you have also experienced joy in the darkness. I'm sure that you have a beautiful story. : )

Tess said...

What a beautiful idea to hold such a service, and your telling of it made me feel I was there, hearing everything. And that song! Ah, it's helped my heart more times than I can remember.

Macrina said...

I am mesmerized by the thought of 11 more seconds of light.
I can just blink and that extra light will be eternity; a little gift I could almost miss…and it happens to all of us, not just those who live in Alaska.

I’ve been comparing that 11 extra seconds of light to a little extra hope, joy, love. What I must remember is that it grows day by day. The 11 seconds will grow into 11 minutes and on and on. If I have 11 more minutes of hope and joy to offer the world…oh, I want to be awake to it. Such Sweet challenges; thanks dear heart for enabling me to reflect on all this.

Suz said...

Lovely post, Rebecca. Thank you! I am visiting my in-laws in Arizona...very strange for this Midwestern woman!

Love to you!