December 19, 2022 Reflection and Worship Link

Reflecting the Sacred

“Blue Christmas”

Scripture Reading: Psalm 139:1-18  

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When I first came to Mt Seymour, Nancy introduced me to a poet named Jan Richardson, whose writings have stopped me in my tracks a number of times over the years.  I find they really speak to me, and often touch me deeply in a very personal way.  Jan Richardson is someone who is no stranger to grief, and her writings at times reflect the depth of grief that she has experienced.

I’m going to share one of her writings from a few years ago from her book The Cure For Sorrow: A book of Blessings for Times of Grief.

Blessing for the Longest Night

All throughout these months
as the shadows
have lengthened,
this blessing has been
gathering itself,
making ready,
preparing for
this night.

It has practiced
walking in the dark,
traveling with
its eyes closed,
feeling its way
by memory
by touch
by the pull of the moon
even as it wanes.

So believe me
when I tell you
this blessing will
reach you
even if you
have not light enough
to read it;
it will find you
even though you cannot
see it coming.

You will know
the moment of its
by your release
of the breath
you have held
so long;

a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
a thinning
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
around you.

This blessing
does not mean
to take the night away
but it knows
its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots
along the path,
knows what it means
to travel
in the company
of a friend.

So when
this blessing comes,
take its hand.
Get up.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.

This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.

—Jan Richardson
from The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief

For many people, the Christmas season is not the joyful, exciting time that we are often bombarded by in advertising and holiday décor.  Maybe this is you, and that is why you are here tonight.  For many, Christmas is marked by sadness, loneliness and feelings of disconnection from others.  It is a time when the joy and celebration typically associated with Christmas are overshadowed by feelings of grief and loss.  Maybe we’re missing loved ones who have died, or perhaps we’re struggling with difficult circumstances in our lives, or difficult diagnoses of ourselves or of ones that we love. Whatever the reason, it’s okay to feel these emotions and to acknowledge that this holiday season doesn’t always feel celebratory.


For me this poem by Jan Richardson so beautifully illustrates times of grief and sadness and the ways that hope enters ever so gradually even into our darkest times.  The blessing will reach you, even if you have not light enough to read it. It will find you, even though you cannot see it coming.  Sometimes the hope will come in the form of a phone call or contact from a friend who maybe has some sense of understanding of your pain. Or maybe you notice one day that the spaces in your being that were filled with the pain of the finality of death now have left an opening for memories of your loved one to inhabit.  Or perhaps the emptiness that you were feeling, is beginning to be filled with new life and some contentment.

‘You will know the moment of its arriving by your release of the breath you have held so long; a loosening of the clenching in your hands, of the clutch around your heart; a thinning of the darkness that had drawn itself around you.’

For me a time of significant grief was when my marriage ended unexpectedly.  My daughters were very young, and I remember at the time feeling very lost and unsure of what my life was going to look like from that point on.  I remember realizing one day that amid the grief and sadness I was feeling, I was still experiencing moments of joy.  My kids would do something silly or we’d be playing together and find ourselves laughing.  I couldn’t help but feel joy when hearing those contagious toddler belly laughs.  Having those moments of joy was a blessing for me, because it was a reminder of the hope, of more joy coming in the future, a reminder of a way through the sadness.

The psalm reminds us that God is with us every step of the way.  In the most difficult days, God is there, in the joyful times, God is there.  What a powerful reminder that we are known and loved by God, even in the darkest of times. Even when we feel lost or alone, God is with us, searching out our path and knowing our thoughts and ways. We can trust in the loving presence of God, even when it feels like everything else is uncertain.

God’s love surrounds us and enfolds us, and the depth of God’s love for us is beyond our comprehension.

So on this Blue Christmas, let us take comfort in the fact that we are known and loved by God. May we have moments of noticing and remembering that even when we don’t feel it or even believe it, that in the midst of our grief and our pain and sadness, we are never alone.  God is always with us.  God’s love will never leave us. Thanks be to God.