The stores are closing or will be shortly. Services all over town are starting. Another Christmas/Advent season will soon be a distant memory. As we close out Advent and begin Christmas, I’d like to share a quote from my favorite theologian, Walter Brueggemann. In his new book, Celebrating Abundance: Devotions for Advent, sharing thoughts about Christmas Eve he writes, “The gift of Christmas contradicts everything we sense about our own life. Our world feels unsavable, and here is the baby named Jesus, “Save.” Our world and our lives often feel abandoned and here is the baby named Immanuel, “God with us.” Be ready to have your sense of the world contradicted by this gift from God. Rest on the new promise from the angel that you may be safe and whole and generous.”
May the blessings of this wonderful gift attend your Christmas celebrations and continue into the new year.
Chris Thompson firstname.lastname@example.org churchvisits.com
At this time of year, many are suffering from illness, death of a loved one, loneliness, or sadness. Often, the cheery greetings of the Christmas season ring hollow compared to the pain many feel. I can certainly relate to these feelings as I too have experienced loss during the past year, and have just passed the anniversaries of my mother’s and sister’s deaths.
Several local churches extend themselves to offer solace to anyone needing a time to escape from the cheery atmosphere surrounding this time of year, to reflect and more effectively confront these issues. Some offer “Blue Christmas” services while others may have “Longest Night” services. These coincide with the time of year where the darkness exceeds the light by many margins.
Finding these services can be a challenge however. A Google search (blue christmas anchorage) revealed one such service on the first search page; St. Mark Lutheran on December 20, 7 p.m. via a Facebook post. (see https://www.facebook.com/events/323053711510959/) On the second search page Trinity Presbyterian Church (trinityalaska.org) announces they are holding a Blue Christmas service at 6:30 p.m. on December 24. The third page contains an outdated Lutheran service reference which no longer applies.
What a shame that so few churches can be found posting such services. Most people don’t delve beyond the first two or three search pages. Many churches believe that internal newsletters, tweets, or Facebook posts are all that is needed to get the word out. The Christian term for this is taken from Matthew 5:15, “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” It’s little wonder that Christmas has degenerated in this post-Christian era. Too many Christians have totally surrendered themselves to the consumer-driven hijacking of Christmas.
Looking for “Longest Night” services is equally challenging. A Google search (longest night service anchorage) reveals similar, with one ray of hope. The first search page revealed only one local church, St. John UMC as having a longest night service on December 21, 7:00 p.m. (see http://www.stjohneagle.com/upcoming-events.html) St John has diligently gone from having a problematic church website to one of the best in the city. Their crowded calendar is easily picked up on Google. Unfortunately Google search pages two and three revealed no other Longest Night services locally.
I’m also aware that St. Mary’s Episcopal Church is having their annual Blue Christmas service on Wednesday, December 20, at 5:30 p.m. Rector Michael Burke told me, “It is a time of silence, prayerfulness, and healing for those overwhelmed by the holiday season, and its sense of merriment.” St. Mary’s newsletter further states, “In previous years, some of those who attended spoke of loved ones who have died, and of other losses in their life over the past year. We will once again light candles and pray for and with one another. The service will conclude with all of us singing “Silent Night” by candlelight. Our very own Dave Rush will again provide his beautiful instrumental guitar music. Come join us for a beautiful, quiet, and reflective time.
My personal thanks to those few churches that have chosen to not “hide their light under a bushel” but are providing a meaningful forum for those aflicted by pain and suffering during this holiday season. Isn’t this what the Beatitudes of Jesus addressed?
Chris Thompson churchvisits.com email@example.com
Many in our faith community say they would have attended the last Evening of Silence at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church if they had known about it in advance. Here’s your notice.
This coming Thursday evening, 6:30-8:00 p.m., St. Mary’s Episcopal will once again open it’s doors for a period of silence to come, sit, kneel, reflect, and pray in a holy setting.
Many of us need to come apart from our dwellings to experience the joys of communing with the divine. There are so many distractions which separate us from practicing the spiritual disciplines of prayer, and fellowship. It’s a benefit to us all, that St. Mary’s is one of the few churches in the local area that open its doors for this purpose. Due to vandalism, theft, desecration, and lack of respect, many churches do not open their doors other than for established meeting times and purposes.
You are free to come and go as you please during this time at St. Mary’s. A litany book was prepared by Heidi Marlowe for the last evening of silence. It was a thoughtful, quiet method to bring ones heart to a time of quiet internalization through Christian litany. Come for a few minutes or the entire hour and a half. It’s up to you.
Thank you St. Mary’s community for leading out in this meaningful opportunity of faith.