Last night I attended a special service at my church known as “The Longest Night of the Year,” or “Blue Christmas,” when we as a community remember those for whom this season is marked by grief rather than celebration. We make space to bring our unfulfilled longings, losses, and pain into the open instead of hiding them behind any kind of festive veneer, and we sings songs that are full of both sorrow and hope.
The room was dark except for a few radiant candles. Sometimes the room was filled with beautiful, gentle music; other times it was hushed and still. We passed around a fresh cedar bough–a symbol of cleansing and healing–and as each person held it in their hands, they were invited to name their sadness aloud or take a moment of silence to bring it to mind. Then they would pass the fragrant branch to the person beside them and we would all speak over them, “Oh God, surround them in your love.”
Many of us shed tears, but it was not a depressing atmosphere. It was honest and sad, but hopeful. We believed that Jesus is coming, and that he has come–that Jesus is with us now. I believe that many of us left feeling both stronger and more vulnerable than when we came in. (At least, that’s how it was for me.) That space was holy. I cannot think of a better way to observe Advent.
Earlier this week, I wrote a reflection on grieving with hope for SheLoves Magazine’s Advent series. It’s a brief meditation on one of the lesser-known women in the Christmas story, and what it means to celebrate the light even while we are surrounded by darkness:
“Women figure prominently in the story of Jesus’ birth. From an early age, I learned about Mary’s unwavering trust in God, and her courage; I was told about Elizabeth’s joy at the fulfillment of a dream she had long since abandoned. Yet as an adult, I find that the most haunting female presence in the story is a woman I never learned about during my childhood—a woman who technically wasn’t even there…”
Head on over to SheLoves Magazine to read the rest.