In my distress I called upon the Lord;/ to my God I cried for help./
From his temple he heard my voice,/ and my cry to him reached his ears.”
This time of year, it can be easy to forget that holidays aren’t happy for everyone.
For many of us who have experienced profound illness, trouble, or loss, a holiday can morph into another painful milestone along a seemingly endless line of “firsts” without that health, or well-being, or loved one present with us as before.
Though much of the world around us is lurching headlong toward a Merry Christmas, we who are in pain or grief receive a profound gift in the time of Advent — because this is the season for sitting still with the deep longing of creation, grounded in brokenness and sorrow, to cry for God to meet us where we are.
This cry requires us to be honest. This is not a time for a stiff upper lip, or for donning any pretense. If we are to experience joy at all with the coming of Christ at Christmas, it will depend on our forthrightness about how desperate we are for God’s healing and sustaining presence.
If the need for honesty about our pain resonates with your experience of the holiday season this year, I especially want to invite you (though it is open to everybody) to our Longest Night service at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church (1805 W. Alabama) on December 21 at 7:00 PM.
This is a special service, inspired by a liturgy from the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Andrew in Honolulu, that I helped to adapt and lead during my time as Curate at St. Stephen’s. It is a liturgy of candlelight, and quiet, and prayers, and meditative music.
It is a liturgy to guide us through our grief toward hope.
How fitting that the Winter Solstice -- the year’s longest darkness -- takes place in the context of Advent longing. Because it is darkness that calls out for light. And it is pain and sorrow that call out for salvation.
Please join us next Friday for this special time together with friends from St. Stephen’s. I will be there, playing some music, leading a portion of the service, and offering healing prayer. I hope to see you.
The Rev. Scott Painter, Vicar