Longest Night, Favorite Day

The longest night of the year has become one of my favorite days of the year.

December 21, the Winter Solstice, sees less sunlight in the Northern Hemisphere than any other day of the year. It's the day that many communities of faith now host Blue Christmas services to minister to those who are grieving during the holidays.

"St. Henry" Outlaw

"St. Henry" Outlaw

When I was pastoring in the Mississippi delta, the church offered a Blue Christmas service, and one of its biggest supporters was my friend, Henry. He saw a deep need in the community and in his own soul for space to be sad at Christmas time, to acknowledge that not everything is merry and bright. He understood that people needed to express Advent's fears and doubts in the midst of so many declarations of Christmas certainty. I felt the same way, and some of my fondest memories of Advent involved planning those services with him. We often talked about how after December 21, the light grew longer each day. With the slowly increasing light, hope bloomed, too.

Henry was a questioner and thinker, and when he died unexpectedly a few Februaries ago, I immediately knew the gospel text I wanted to use in the homily of his memorial service.

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
— John 20:24-25 (New Revised Standard Version)

Thomas, like Henry, was not a doubter as much as one who longed for more of the light. He dared to reach out through the darkness of unknowing  and pray for an encounter with the risen Christ. He dared to dream. Henry taught me not to resist the longest night of the year but rather to embrace its mystery. 

When I woke early this morning and opened my daily devotional, I was surprised to discover that December 21 is also the feast day for one of the saints.

It is the Feast of St. Thomas. 

The day of least light is also the day we remember a saint's greatest longing.

After today, the light only increases. The darkness only lessens. And we begin to behold with Thomas, "My Lord and my God!"

With St. Thomas and "St. Henry," let us move towards the blues as well as the brights of Christmas in this hope: Emmanuel. God With Us.

all good things to each of you,

Pastor Darian