Dear Hyde Park Family,
Each year, Dec. 21 marks the winter solstice, in which our northern hemisphere is tilted furthest away from the sun. Winter will officially begin with the longest period of nighttime all year and from then, our daylight will gradually lengthen.
That prolonged period of darkness is also a fitting metaphor. For many people, this Christmas will not be a season of festive joy and holiday cheer, but of profound loss and grief. You may be among them.
This may be the first Christmas you will observe without that special loved one around. You may be facing certain financial hardship during these painful economic times. You may have a haunting anxiety over health concerns from a rough year of diagnoses. You may be feeling deep concern about the state of our politics and the future of our nation and world. You may be feeling the strains of broken relationships, broken promises or broken dreams.
Your nights are long, indeed.
So, this Wednesday, we will once again be hosting a special worship service called “Blue Christmas” in the chapel of our Hyde Park campus at 7 p.m. You will have the opportunity to gather with others who are struggling, in order to name the dark sadness and shadowy pain within your own life.
I find it interesting that in the daily calendar of the saints, Dec. 21 is designated as the feast day for St. Thomas. Yes, that Thomas, the one who doubted. Of all the characters in the gospel, we would wonder, “Why this one?” Why not Zechariah or Elizabeth, or Mary or Joseph? How about even the innkeeper who fluffed up the hay in the manger? Why not a figure from the Advent story?
But Thomas? The one who wallowed in disbelief in the midst of his pain? The one who found himself grieving in the wake of Jesus’ death? The one who chose to find comfort among the trusted company of friends?
Come to think of it, maybe Thomas is the perfect saint for the longest night.
It’s interesting. When Jesus finally convinced Thomas that he could trust and believe the good news of his resurrection, he was careful in his method. He did not wage an intellectual debate with Thomas, to convince his mind that dead things could come back to life. He did not punish Thomas for his disbelief, in order to condition his spirit into believing the unbelievable.
Instead, Jesus’ proof was in his blood-stained hands and in his pierced side. In effect, he said to Thomas, “Look. You wanted to believe in a God who could avoid death and suffering. I’m showing you a God who identifies with you in suffering and can lead you through it. These pierced hands and wounded feet are evidence that this God whom you worship can connect with you in your deepest pain and lead you to a new and living hope.”
So now, consider your Christmas in light of this good news. If you question a God who seems too distant to be believed, or sing carols that seem too plastic to be personal, or hear a gospel that is too difficult to be received, then consider a God who sees your suffering, your doubt, and your pain and chooses to draw near to you, as your constant companion and lifelong friend.
Your Immanuel, your God With You.
Praying for Light for Your Longest Night,
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist