December 21, 2016 – Shelley Regan

I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by name.  Isaiah 45:3

It’s December 21, we are almost through Advent, and have arrived at the Winter Solstice. The shortest day and the longest night of the year. Our Oklahoma sun will rise at 7:36 a.m. and set at 5:21 p.m. – that’s not a lot of daylight my friends.

This Advent feels darker than usual. It has been a tough year. People I love have battled cancer. Some have lost. Some continue to fight. Others are weary in spirit, and the lack of sunshine compounds their struggle.

There is great darkness in our world as well.  We hear news of exhausted refugees fleeing violence a world away, while racism, hate crimes, and xenophobia are too close to home. How can this weary world rejoice when ash-covered, bloody children are stunned silent in Aleppo?

Sometimes Advent feels more like Lent. Our first Christmas in Houston I experienced a different kind of darkness, missing friends, family, and meaningful work. John was busy and I needed some goodness and light. I found a “Longest Night” service that December 21, and joined my voice with strangers to sing minor key hymns, light candles, and speak aloud names of people loved and lost. Afterwards, I walked a labyrinth, lit with hundreds of luminaries. That slow walk under the starlit sky was a reminder God illumines our path when are weary from the darkness of our journey.  

That is our gift. The hope and promise of Emmanuel – God is with us.  

Starting tomorrow we will gain one to three minutes of sunlight every day, until the Summer Solstice. As we move through this longest night, sit with the darkness for a while. It is there we experience the gift. In deepest darkness, God comes to us. Look out at the stars and name your sorrows, then light a candle, pray, and wait. For the diagnosis. The test results. The meds to work. The grief to lessen. For the light to break through.  

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Prayer: Oh Holy One, we hold in your light all who dwell in the darkness of grief from loss of health, their companion, or their way. We pray for all who like Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, walk in darkness as they flee threats of violence. And for the children of Aleppo, families living in fear of deportation, and mothers who fear a routine traffic stop might end their black son’s life. Come, Lord Jesus! How we need your light.

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