As I write this in mid-November, I have noticed that weeks
after Hurricane Sandy hit this region, many of my colleagues are still holding services in dark, cold churches. "I could see my breath while celebrating the Eucharist this morning," posted one Pastor on Long Island.
Indeed, I can remember holding services in Woodstock on a cold, January morning when the furnace had broken. I wore a coat and could also see my breath in the sanctuary.
But it was just one week….and at least the lights were working!
But without electricity, darkness and cold were part of life for our ancestors during this time of year. Near to my
house in Saugerties, there are several stone homes which stood before electric lines or even central heating systems. I often wonder what it was like to spend winter in one of
them 100+ years ago. Can you imagine months of darkness beginning in the early afternoon? Cold homes with warmth felt only near the hearth? Windows shuttered tight to keep out the wind and snow? Brrr.
It is no accident that the lectionary directed people to passages speaking of light and hope during this
dark time of the year. Indeed, it is the time of year when we do need most to be reminded that, in the words of the Psalmist, "darkness is not dark to you." or, of John, "the light shines in the darkness and the
darkness did not overcome it."
Still, even with our modern "comforts" many people are still sensitive to the darkness. For some,
"Seasonal Affective Disorder" is a real thing, bringing depression with the darkness of each winter. For
others, the "Holiday" season itself brings so many stresses that it really isn't a joy at all. For some, this time of year brings them close to brokenness in family
relationships. For others, it accents the lack of relationships in their lives, or the loss of someone close and
the accompanying loneliness or grief. For others, the cold brings high heating bills and financial pressures.
For others, it brings pressure simply to "buy" or to spend money that is not there for one reason or another.
And this year, there are so many who are still homeless and in the dark—literally– after Hurricane Sandy.
For these reasons, some churches hold "Blue Christmas" events with the intent of reaching out especially to those who feel sadness, not joy, this time of year.
However, I would contend that every Advent/Christmas event is for those who feel the darkness of these
days. As the prophet tells us, "The people who dwelt in darkness have seen a great light."
Christ is born in a manger. His birth is proclaimed in the dark of night by angels and a star which lights up
the sky. His birth is for each and every person who has ever felt sadness, or loneliness, or fear, or loss, or poverty….or darkness….because He is Light..