How wonderful to wake this morning and know that the year’s longest night is over! Darkness has reached the full stretch of its powers and now, even through a still-long winter ahead of us, we will enjoy a little more light every day. These facts are especially relevant in a northern city such as Winnipeg.
Last evening, we attended a Longest Night Service in our church. We hold this service to acknowledge that not everyone experiences the Andy Williams hit, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” at Christmas. People may be lonely or mourning the loss of someone they loved. They may be sick or struggling with mental health issues or addictions. They may be unemployed or financially stressed. And, while experiences of darkness may be very personal, they also encompass places of current crisis such as Syria or the Philippines.
In this service, we sang, sat in silence, heard Scriptures from Isaiah 40 and John 1, and prayed together. We lit “our” candles from the Christ candle already lit in our midst. Then our pastor reminded us of a paradox: while possibly the worse time of the year for many, for them — and for all of us — it actually is the most wonderful time of the year. What’s wonderful about it? Immanuel: God with us.
There is no better time to welcome Christ than in the heavy dark of winter, and Christ is come.
By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:78-79)