Yes, we here in the Chicago area are enjoying an extra 19 seconds of daylight today compared to December 21st. And somehow it does feel a little lighter around here. But the shortest day was just Tuesday. That longest night in the midst of this exceptionally long year (remember when we thought 2021 was going to be so much better?!) felt especially bleak. Maybe you still feel that way. Maybe you need a few moments of quiet. Maybe you even need a few moments of prayer. That’s what this worship experience is for: safe space to lament, to cry, and to try to hope again.
By any measure, this has been a challenging season. Every opportunity has brought its share of challenges. Joy, interrupted by tragedy. Confidence, sidelined by concern. Success, surrounded by struggle.
We think we’ve finally rounded the corner toward defeating this pandemic, only to find yet another turn awaiting us. The death toll continues to mount. Meanwhile, the rest of life with all its joys and sorrows continue. We are tired. We are hurting. We are angry. We are afraid. We are grieving. God can feel so far away.
Fortunately for us, we are not the first people to feel this way. From time immemorial, people have cried out to God. Including our biblical writers who shout their laments to the Author of Life. For instance, the Psalmist cries with us: “How long, O God will you ignore the prayers of your people? You have fed them with the bread of tears.”
Our intent tonight is to offer safe space to honestly name our hurts and our despair; to plead with God and if need be, to let our tears flow. But despair is not our home. So tonight we also pray and sing together as we hope against hope that, as the author of the book of Samuel wrote, “God will set things right all over the earth.” Today we find ourselves in the longest night of the year, but we are not alone.
As our Indigenous siblings wisely remind us, After tonight, “the earth turns again toward the sun. May our tomorrows be illuminated with solidarity and love,” for that is the light that drives out all bleakness.
Since I was first introduced to it a little more than 20 years ago, Taizé style music has been my preferred method of prayer. The method that most consistently “works” for me. By which I mean I feel most connected to God that way. I find that music exceedingly appropriate for a contemplative service like our Longest Night. We didn’t know until the last minute if our musician and production crew were available. I’m grateful to work with a talented team willing to make this worship service happen. (Production crew not pictured there. Thanks Kevin, Jaidyn, and Paul!)
The whole thing is less than 30 minutes, if you want to give it a try: