The Longest Night

This year our church is having a "Longest Night" service. The idea was inspired by a counselor friend of mine who told me about how her Methodist church acknowledges people's pain on the night of the winter solstice (December 21st).
As I researched for this church service I came across this meditation written by Rev. Diane Hendricks in 2001.

Longest Night Meditation

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Only it's not.
  • Not for everyone.
  • Not when there is an empty chair at the table.
  • Not when your body is ravaged with illness.
  • Not when the depression is too much to bear.
  • Not without her voice joining yours on the Christmas carols.
  • Not when you feel all alone even in a crowd.
  • Not when you are not sure you can even afford the rent or mortgage, let alone the presents.
  • Not when they are trying their best to the best of you.
  • Not when another Christmas party means he will come home drunk again.
It's the most wonderful time of the year?

No, it's not.

And trying to smile and say Merry Christmas is more than difficult. It's pretty near impossible.

C.S. Lewis once wrote:
"No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning..."
It's the most wonderful time of the year.

Only it's not.
  • Not after he has died.
  • Not after the doctor gave you the news.
  • Not after they told you they would be downsizing.
  • Not after... you fill in the blank.
  • Not after September 11.
  • Not when there is so much violence and destruction in the world.
In truth, it has never been the most wonderful time of the year. Certainly not in the days surrounding that first Christmas so long ago. The story of the birth of Jesus is not to be told with a jolly voice and a merry ho-ho-ho.
It is the story of a teenage girl, pregnant with a child that is not her husband's.

It is the story of a child born in a dirty animal stall.
It is the story of a family of refugees who had to flee their homeland so that their child would not be killed.
It is the story of one sent into the world in peace who was condemned to death.
It is the story of a light sent to shine in the darkness, which the world snuffed out.
It is the story of God's never-ending, self-giving mercy which was rejected and condemned.
In the great work the Messiah, Handel quotes the prophet Isaiah, proclaiming that Jesus was "despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." One great theologian reminds us that we cannot come to the manger without acknowledging that it lays in the shadow of the cross.

It is not the most wonderful time of the year.

Only it is!

It is:
  • If we forget about the tinsel and the trees.
  • If we forget about the holly jolly tidings.
  • If we forget about the presents and the ornaments and the trappings.
And remember.

Remember the story.
  • Mary was alone and afraid.
    But God was with her and exalted her among women.
  • Joseph was disgraced.
    But God revealed in Joseph's cause for disgrace God's plan to save the world.
  • The world was in darkness.
    But God sent the light of life to shine.
  • The lowly were imprisoned.
    But Jesus set them free.
  • The blind wandered aimlessly.
    But Christ gave them eyes to see.
  • The lame were rejected.
    But through the Holy One they were made to leap and dance.
  • The deaf were confined to the silence.
    But the song of life unstopped their ears.
  • The sorrowful grieved.
    But God wipes away our tears.
  • We were alone.
    But in Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God is with us.
  • The people rejected God.
    But God embraces us.
  • The world crucified Christ.
    But God would not allow that to be the last word, and gave us the sure hope of the resurrection.
It is the most wonderful time of the year, not because you have to be cheery and happy and merry.

But because you don't.

You can have heavy spirits and shattered dreams. Broken hearts and deep wounds.

And still God comes to be with you.
  • To comfort you.
  • To redeem you.
  • To save you.
  • To restore you.
  • To empower you.
  • To strengthen you.
  • To grant you peace.
  • To be raised for you.
  • To hold you in the communion of saints with those whom you have loved and lost.
  • To store your tears in his bottle.
  • To offer you eternal life.
It is the most wonderful time of the year.
For Christ is born.
Love has come.
God is with us!
Thanks be to the Lord our God.

Rev. Diane Hendricks
16 December 2001


  1. Amen, KB.

    What a great idea. A night to remember grief, and then to remember salvation.

  2. Thanks, Bob. It's hard to post a comment with tears in my eyes....

  3. Wow! This meditation is extraordinarily moving and apropos to the season.

    I think I may try to work the reading of this into our worship service on Sunday morning, 12/24

  4. KB! This is incredible. I am linking to this since I have been writing both about church and about how Christmas time is not Merry for all of us.

    I can't believe your church is doing this...THANK YOU for being such a great example of Christ at your church!!!!

  5. Thanks, KB. I used the idea for a meditation in our service today. We talked about looking for opportunities to share Christ, the hope of Christmas, with those God sends to us who are without hope during this season. Lots of times we don't see the despair immediately, until we engage them in love.
    If we can get beyond the surface smiles and "Merry Christmas"'s and really let people open up to us in a non-threatening way, we can give them God in a way that we didn't even know they might need.
    My wife shared the story of a young lady who came into one of the pregnancy centers recently. She was considering giving her baby up for adoption (thank God she was not abortion-minded), and as she sat in the waiting area, she listened to the Christmas music playing in the backgraound.
    As she spoke with the counselor, she said, "I decided to keep and parent my baby, because as I was listening to the Christmas music in the waiting room, I fell in love with my baby."
    Only God.
    He's the hope for the hopeful, the lost, and those in despair.
    Merry Christmas, KB.

  6. What a great story Pauly! Thanks for sharing it.

    The only think I don't like about the meditation is I didn't write it :)

  7. Beautiful........thought provoking and it touched my heart.

    Winter Solstice is a double edged sword.....the longest night of the year, and yet I always feel a sense of hope because the nights can't any longer than that!!!

    This year, we are congregating with a bunch of friends and their families to break bread together and to build a big campfire outside in the middle of cold warm us up and to bring light.

    I will think of what I have written.

    May you have a glorious day!!!!

  8. Oooopps.........I meant to write

    I will think of what YOU have written.... it's early morning....I need a warm cup of tea to kickstart my noggin'

    Sorry about that.........


  9. I can't add to it. I'll just say it's a beautiful and powerful bit of prose.

    I thank my God that I am having a year without any major trials. But I am well aware that the year will come when there will be an empty chair, or an illness, or some other trial to challenge my Christmas spirit. And when that comes, I'll do my best to remember this.

    (Don't you love when people say that they can add to something, and then proceed to write another paragraph!!?)


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