A Meditation on the “Longest Night”

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The Winter Solstice.

No need to get lost in definitions and explanations.  It’s clear: the Sun’s path is shorter as it tracks more and more to the south.  Summer’s 14 hours of daylight (at least here, in central Texas) have incrementally yielded to Winter’s 14 hours of night.  It all culminates in the “longest night” of the year: this Saturday, December 21.  (From there, the cycle renews–as that path arcs northward… and daylight lengthens.)

As we approach this “longest night” of the year,
I find my heart especially drawn
towards those going through long nights of heart and soul:
the individual who must face this Season without a beloved companion,
the individual whose body is racked with the nausea of chemotherapy,
the individual caught in the throes of depression,
the individual who just got laid off,
the divorced parent who must hand off kids, half way through the holidays…

Theirs is the loss of a companion, a dream, a cause.
Theirs are sleepless nights—adrift and alone.
Theirs is the stifling and consuming suffocation of memories, guilts, and fears.

As if that were not enough
(long, physical nights wed to long, dark nights of the spirit),
it’s all compounded and complicated, at least in my mind,
by the popular sentiments of the Season that abound:
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”
“I’ll be home for Christmas”
“Have a holly, jolly Christmas”
“May all your days be merry and bright”

For too many walking through the long night of the soul
–for those who have have nothing to give (materially, emotionally),
for those who have no one to give anything to—
it only adds insult to injury.

It helps me (and I pray it helps “them”)
to remember that it was for the very likes of such “outsiders”
that God sent his Son.
And, it was “outsiders”
(like Mary and Joseph, like the Shepherds)
who were in the best position
to see and receive the gift.
“Blessed are…”

In this light,
this really can be a most wonderful time of the year.
Not, mind you, because everything
is merry and bright on the surface.
But, because, at a deeper level,
there’s a faith and hope
which nothing in this world can touch… or provide.

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