May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight O God, my Redeemer.
Welcome. To those of you who are visiting St. James and those who attend here regularly - I am glad you are here. This is the first
“Blue Christmas” service we have had at St. James’. It is a service that recognizes that Christmas can be harder for some than for others. It is generally held on December 21st, 2021, the longest day of the year, recognizing the darkness.
Darkness is something that much has been written about. One of the most influential works I read in my younger years was The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. It depicts the darkness that can hide in man’s soul. Also Elise Wiesel “Night”, along with St. John of the Cross’ “Dark Night of the Soul”. All of these works speak to pain and the presence of God in some of humanities most trying moments. They are all books that have impacted me.
I want to acknowledge darkness. Darkness exists. God created darkness, Genesis 1:3, “And God said, Let there be light, and there was light, And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called night.”
We all have periods and times in our lives when darkness seems to be more prominent than light. Seasonally, we even have periods where there is more darkness in a 24 hour period than there is light.
Darkness I may even argue was part of God’s plan. The earth seemed to need a period of darkness. Darkness interestingly is not characterized by any one color on a color chart - darkness comes from mixing a multitude of colors, black is not a color if you ask an artist - black is the absence of light and therefore not a color.
Darkness is the absence of light.
The absence of light. What do we do in our lives when we feel the absence of light?
In the poem or treatise, Dark Night of the Soul, the "dark night of the soul" does not refer to the difficulties of life in general, although the phrase has understandably been taken to refer to such trials. The thesis of the poem by St. John of the Cross, is the joyful experience of being guided to God, in which the only light in this dark night is that which burns in the soul, which St. John describes as a guide more certain than the mid-day sun.
A guide more certain than the mid-day sun.
There are few things that are consistent in this world that we live in. This year has been unbearably hard for so many. And just when we think things will ease up and settle down - something new seems to happen.
There are few things that I have found more comforting in life than this image of us being guided by the Holy Spirit to God, which he described as being a guide more certain than the mid-day sun.
This Christmas, this season, is maybe not as joyful for some of you has it has been in years past. Life changes and moves on. A loved one dies. Friends or family move away. We struggle with a divorce, we lose our jobs, we may face cancer or some other overwhelming illness.
What had promised to be a Christmas filled with fun and pleasure suddenly becomes a “Blue Christmas”. It’s the emotion reflected in the old Elvis hit:
“I’ll have a blue Christmas, that’s certain
And when that blue heartache starts hurting
You’ll be doing all right with your Christmas of white
But I’ll have a blue, blue Christmas
And I want to take a nod to the darkness, while acknowledging that in each of us lies the Holy Spirit, who is with us, who never leaves us, and is a light in each one of us.
That first Christmas wasn’t completely a “holly jolly Christmas”
As one woman observed,
Christmas “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 innocent boys being killed by King Herod because Herod feared one of them might be the rival king the Wise Men spoke of.
It is the story of someone - sent into the world in peace - who was condemned to death.
It is the story of a light sent to shine in the darkness, and the world snuffed it out.
It is the story of God’s never-ending, self-giving mercy which was rejected and condemned.”
(Diane Hendricks Little Falls Presbyterian Church in Arlington, VA)
One could reasonably argue that that 1st Christmas was literally a “blue Christmas”
And if all we looked at were the things that were wrong about the birth of Jesus that’s all you’d see – a blue, blue Christmas which offered no words of hope or joy.
But a blue Christmas is not really the story of Christmas. In the midst of what appeared to be dire circumstances, the light of the world appears.
The light of the world to give us hope! There is a future.
Yes, this world is a harsh place to be.
Yes, people die, move away, get divorced, get sick, lose their jobs and homes.
These are real hardships and tragedies and our hearts hurt at times.
But the message from the Gospel story of Jesus’ birth is this:
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not extinguish it.
See the lights around you this afternoon. See the people around you. Fellow Christians on similar journeys. You are not alone.
There is a light in you. Darkness does not extinguish it.
Thanks be to God.