In this, the longest night of the year, it is most fitting and just that we contemplate the mysteries before us. In our material experience Christmastide portends a season of light and gaiety and celebration. We rush about buying presents and decorating trees totally oblivious to the spiritual realities surrounding us. In the astronomical/meteorological idioms this is a time of darkness, particularly tonight and tomorrow, and the full import of those realities has in this age of electric lights and the internet lost its ability to impress us with what is, in reality, going on.
We, and I mean all of us, are a lost tribe. We put on the mask of gaiety and fill our cups to the rim hoping and praying that the assault of material goods and food will assuage that for which we all truly hunger, that being, in the words of Dame Julian of Norwich, our return to God’s everlasting embrace.
In this season of the year the darkness threatens to overwhelm the light and our psyches reflect this battle as we struggle to maintain a balance. However, life and death continue on as always and in this season of jubilation there are those who suffer greatly from the loss of loved ones or simply from sheer loneliness. Many simply are unable to remember a time of joy and happiness as their lives have been totally upended by uncontrollable tragedy in the form of death, divorce, addiction, depression or just pure stress. There are those of us who feel this pain em-pathetically and, sometimes, so intensely that it is as if it were our own. We are moved to tears in thinking about the suffering of our brothers and sisters but we feel powerless do anything more than pray, pray through our tears and our own pain, in the hopes that God will hear us and be moved to intervene as he did for his people held in bondage in Egypt so long ago.
A prayer published today through the good offices of the Downtown Church in Columbia, South Carolina so nearly mirrors my own prayers I wish to reproduce it for you tonight.
God of light and truth,
Give special grace to your children who suffer in darkness
in this night season of the year.
For those who are lonely
Bring them the warm light of companionship
For those who are plagued by monsters in their minds,
Soothe them with the healing light of your truth,
For those who are trapped in dark relationships
Living situations, work, or addictions
Draw them into your bright peace
In the darkest time of the year,
You sent your light into the world through Jesus Christ,
Your Son, send your light into the darkest places of our lives,
That we may be freed from the bonds of darkness
and transformed by your light.
In addition to being the winter solstice today is also the Feast of Saint Thomas in many communions of the Christian Church. Saint Thomas has been styled as a “doubter” implying that he dwelt in the darkness of unbelief until Jesus appeared to him and allayed his doubt by providing concrete evidence that he, Jesus, had actually died and come back to life. In reading the biography of Saint Thomas today from a book titled Holy Women, Holy Men a thought stood out as particularly relevant to those who suffer this time of the year. Allow me to quote it:
He did not refuse belief: he wanted to believe, but did not dare, without further evidence, because of his goodwill, Jesus gave him a sign, though Jesus had refused a sign to the Pharisees. His Lord’s rebuke was well deserved: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20:29). The sign did not create the faith; it merely released the faith which was in Thomas already. (Emphasis supplied).
As we face the darkness of this night let us remember those who face severe challenges. And, let us remember those, especially, who face a challenge of faith as did the blessed Apostle whose faith, though present the whole time , needed a catalyst to release it. Let us pray for, and be through our prayers, with our suffering brothers and sisters as they face the darkness in the hope that their faith may be released and the light of the Lord may come upon them. Let us pray that we may become that catalyst that releases their faith when the opportunity presents itself. The light of Christ is coming. Let us each seek to find ways to spread that light to those so in need of it. Amen.
 Copyright: Downtown Church, Columbia, South Carolina. Used here by permission. This prayer was written by the Reverend Emily Hylden, Assistant Pastor and Episcopal Priest. You may wish to subscribe to the series of Advent Prayers authored by Emily and the Reverend Amos Disassa by going to http://www.downtownchurch.me/.
ART: The Altar of the Siebels Chapel, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Columbia, South Carolina, photographed on the Feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle, 21 December 2015 by Paul Joseph Nicholson.