Thankfully, over the past ten years or so, I have heard of more churches that have become sensitive to the reality, that for many, Christmas is not the "most wonderful time of the year". Far too many people have experienced great loss around this time of the year; and, the fact that the majority of the words surrounding us at this season include urgings to be "merry" or "happy", only pours salt on the wound. While still honoring what is the essential message of Christmas - hope, many congregations now offer a service recognizing and allowing for grief on the winter solstice, i.e., the longest night of the year. So, to honor those of us for whom this longest night, its darkness, is representative of the state of our spirits, at least for the mean time, I offer the following poem from Gerard Manley Hopkins. And, if there is someone you know who may be hurting these days, I encourage you to give a call, send a message, drop by and let them know you care.
I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day. What hours, O what black hours we have spent This night! what sights you, heart, saw; ways you went! And more must, in yet longer light's delay. With witness I speak this. But where I say Hours I mean years, mean life. And my lament Is cries countless, cries like dead letters sent To dearest him that lives alas! away.
I am gall, I am heartburn. God's most deep decree Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me; Bones built in me, flesh filled, blood brimmed the curse. Selfyeast of spirit a dull dough sours. I see The lost are like this, and their scourge to be As I am mine, their sweating selves; but worse.