Traditionally, this particular service is called a ‘Blue Christmas Service’, or a ‘Longest Night Service.’ That makes sense, as for many of us, due to the pain of loss or illness, we feel ‘blue’ – we just don’t feel like celebrating when the rest of the world seems to be. We would rather move on past the painful memories this time of year seems to resurrect. We miss our loved ones who are no longer with us. We miss having normal days that are pain-free. We miss having a job to go to and a home to return to each night.
From a strictly yearly-cycle point-of-view, today is considered the shortest day of the year; which means tonight is the longest night of the year. Some thrive in the nightlife, yet others see the symbolic nature of the ‘Longest Night’ when it is hard to find any guiding light at all. If we consider Christ to be the light of the world – the baby born in Bethlehem that we celebrate each year, than during our long periods of night, it’s difficult to see that light or feel Jesus’ presence at all.
Maybe we are angry, or bitter, and we just want to cry out, ‘Really God? Did you have to allow this to happen to me? Do you have to ignore me while I suffer?’ But maybe we’re a little afraid to address God like this. Maybe we feel a little guilty about accusing God of seemingly turning God’s back on us.
The message I pray you take with you tonight is this – God can handle your anger. God can handle your bitterness. God loves you so much that you can cry out to God until you feel you have nothing left. The Psalmist wrote many Psalms, like the one I read earlier, that did just that – Psalms that cry out in hope of finding some answers to make any kind of sense of the madness. The message I want you to take from here is a message of hope – a message of assurance that God is always with you, walking through the storms of life together.
Life is not easy for most of us. When you consider the first Christmas and what Mary and Joseph had to face, from a long, painful journey to Bethlehem, to an unwelcoming situation requiring them to give birth in a stable, to the visit of foreign kings and an eventual fleeing into Egypt to escape a mad ruler, it’s pretty clear to see that life was not easy even for the son of God and his earthly parents. Yet God remained with them – even in what seemed to be hope-less situations. God is with you as well. God struggles along with you, allowing you to vent your hurt and anger, and ultimately God provides reassurance that the Longest Night will pass, and the Night of Hope will emerge. Emanuel – God is with us. Amen.