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The Longest Night, Winter Solstice

Posted by Traci Smith on

December 21, 2022 - The Longest Night, Winter Solstice

Dear EPC Members and Friends, 
Tonight, in Chicago, the sun will set at 4:22 pm and rise again at 7:15 am tomorrow. The amount of daylight today is only nine hours, seven minutes, and forty-four seconds.

Tonight is the longest night of the year. 
Some congregations or faith communities have a special service or ritual to mark this night, and we might try that one year as a congregation. For this year, instead, I thought I’d help you mark this night with this letter, and offer some options for you. What will resonate will depend on where you find yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually this year. 

I encourage you to not let today pass by unnoticed. Take a moment to acknowledge it and mark it somehow.

For some of you, lingering in the darkness might speak to you. For others, looking forward to the light is exactly what you need. As Jan Richardson says “Different darks have different tasks.” 

To Linger in the Darkness
Poetic literature (including the Bible) often associates darkness with bad and evil and light with good and holy. It’s a logical connection and a useful metaphor. And yet, like all metaphors, it’s incomplete. If you’ve never taken a moment to consider how darkness can be holy and beautiful, tonight might be a night for that. Watch as the sun goes down well before bedtime. Turn off (or down) the artificial lights in your home and sit with the darkness a little bit. How is it with your soul? The forecast is very cold and cloudy tonight, so you will likely not be able to see the stars or the moon. Reflect for a minute on that reality. Consider that there are heavenly bodies of light up there, even when you can’t see them. If you were able to break through the clouds, you’d see them. Imagine them there. Take a moment to reflect on the metaphorical darkness in your life, either right now, or in the past. What has it taught you? What has it brought you? What is it teaching you? What is it bringing you? Soak in this darkness. Let it wash over you and cover you like a blanket. Notice it’s there and try not to judge it. Ask the Spirit if there are lessons for you here, in this specific darkness. Ask the Spirit to draw near to you as you walk through darker moments of life. If you like to journal or create, consider a piece on what darkness has given to you this year, or in the past. 

To Welcome Light
Beginning tomorrow night, the days will be longer and the nights will be shorter. Thanks be to God. If you are looking forward to hope, light, and leaving darkness behind, let tonight be a celebration of that hope. Longer days are coming. Darkness doesn’t last forever. Darkness washes in, but it also washes out. This happens every year. Brighter days are coming. How is it with your soul? How will you notice the longer days and give thanks for them? What hope do you have for them? Take a moment to welcome the light that is coming and prepare for the things that light might bring. It can be brave to step out of the dark night and into a brighter day. Sometimes we need to leave something behind there, in the darkness. Ask the Spirit to reveal to you the things you can’t see in the dark. Light a candle. Sprinkle some glitter on it. Imagine the light and walk toward it with courage. Feel its warmth on your face. Notice that the darkness is here now, and try not to judge it. Perhaps you will want to journal about the hope you seek as you move into the light. 

Some Ways to Mark the Longest Night 

Light a candle
Turn off all of the lights 
Sit outside as the sun goes down tonight or as it rises tomorrow morning 
Start keeping track of the sunrise and sunset, as a spiritual practice 
Listen to the song NUIT which means night or LUX VENIT which means light has come
Create a piece of art. Here is a very simple idea to inspire you
Take a photo 

I’ll leave you with this beautiful blessing from Jan Richardson:
Go slow
if you can.
More slowly still.
Friendly dark
or fearsome,
this is no place
to break your neck
by rushing,
by running,
by crashing into
what you cannot see.

Then again,
it is true:
different darks
have different tasks,
and if you
have arrived here unawares,
if you have come
in peril
or in pain,
this might be no place
you should dawdle.

I do not know
what these shadows
ask of you,
what they might hold
that means you good
or ill.
It is not for me
to reckon
whether you should linger
or you should leave.

But this is what
I can ask for you:

That in the darkness
there be a blessing.
That in the shadows
there be a welcome.
That in the night
you be encompassed
by the Love that knows
your name.

from Jan Richardson's blog, The Advent Door

Peace, peace, and peace to you and love on this longest night. 
You are all in my heart and my prayers.  

Pastor Traci