Blue Christmas Service
Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC
Rev. Tina Walker-Morin
December 21, 2016
This evening I have a message for you about light.
The bright sun last Friday seemed to be mocking me. Glowing through the windows sending patches of light and warmth. Yet when I stepped outside the sun lied to me. Yes, there was still light and it was still bright but where was the warmth? Instead my nose froze feeling as if it would crack and break right off. The layer upon layers of clothing could not protect me from the cold.
Friday’s freezing temperatures is exactly how heavy emotions can feel during this Christmas season. A season where everything is supposed to be “Merry and Bright”, yet at times it feels darker than the darkest night.
We try to cover up our sadness with layers of smiles and good cheer, only to realize the sadness is sleeping in under the layers and at times flowing over our bodies, gripping us until we are frozen and unable to move.
The story of Jesus is a story of loss and sadness just as much as it is about joy and love. Imagine there is Joseph a man who has a job, a good family, a good reputation and has now become engaged in an arranged marriage. Everything he had ever dreamed about. He then learns that his finance, Mary is pregnant and not by him.
He must be devastated, confused and worried. I imagine him running home to his brothers asking what should I do? Can you believe this? All of his dreams for the future: of being a well-known carpenter/tradesman, growing a family with his wife Mary, having multiple children, one of which would defiantly be named Joseph after him of course, all gone down the drain. Where is good in this situation? Where is the light?
Joseph’s situation reminds me of a friend who was engaged. They had set the date, reserved the hall and all was on course, when he began to question everything. As we sat on his sofa talking, he expressed his hesitation to move across the country, to a place where he knew no one and that would be far away from home and his family. He was unsure what to do.
Yes, he loved her but…. So I asked, “what is more important to you, to be with her or to stay here?” He did not answer, I thought for sure the answer would be, to be with her. After all they had been together for several years, they were college sweet hearts. The next day I learned that the engagement was off. The diamond ring that was his grandmothers was returned, tears were shed and future dreams were cut short.
Joseph’s dreams have also been changed. He too is a good man like my friend and does not wish to humiliate Mary, after all might he have even loved her? So he plans to end the engagement quietly. After agonizing all day, wringing his hands deciding what to do, Joseph goes to bed with his plan in mind.
Then in the middle of the night, during the darkest of hours and angel of the Lord appears to him! And as we just heard in our scripture, Joseph is told that what had been prophesied, hundreds of years before, would come true and Joseph shall name the baby “Emmanuel” meaning “God is with us”.
God is with us, in the middle of the night, in the darkest of nights and days Joseph learns that God is with him and God is with us providing the light. This is the comfort we can all find in this season of darkest, on this the longest nights that God will provide the light and that God is with us. For it was told that, “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:1-4).
Yesterday, we held a Blue Christmas service in Waltham for people who are experiencing homelessness. Part of the service included passing the Holy Light from one to another. We sat in a circle in the choir room, each on our wood chairs facing one another and a small table in the middle, with a beautiful golden linen cloth covering it as the candles from the Advent Wreath shined bright on the communion bread and juice placed next to it.
When the time came, we asked Paul to light his candle from the Advent wreathe and begin the passing of light from one to another. It was going to be beautiful, as the light would make its way all the way around the circle. However, a couple of the men, one fella who just gotten new front teeth (because his were knocked out in a fight) and another who with his unshaven beard looked like he must have played high school football, took out their cigarette lighters and lit their own candles. I said, “no, no, wait, you guys are jumping ahead of us.” They quickly below out their candles and sat sheepishly, shoulders hunched over, peering around. Then Paul came back over to them and re-lit their candles from his own, still not following the circle of light.
And then I realized that is how the light of God and Christ work. It is not a well-orchestrated, planned ritual. No, it is the movement of the Holy Spirit, appearing in the middle of the darkness. Sometimes we take out our own lighters and light our own candle, while other times we wait patiently for the light to come around to us and then at times we need a friend to come over, out of turn and light our candle.
Just as we feel the layers of clothing upon our bodies: from hats, to gloves, to coats, sweaters, socks and boots; so too do we feel the layers of emotions: the sorrow, sadness, anxiety, depression, joy, excitement, love and awe.
The truth is no matter how we receive the light, no matter how our candles are lit, the promise of God is that they will be lit. That in every dark moment there will be light because: Light is good and God separated the light from the darkness.