I am writing this article in October, as we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The article is due in November, when we will celebrate All Saints of every time, and celebrate Thanksgiving and our American history. When you read this, it will be December and the season of Advent. Advent draws our hopeful expectation to three times: the birth of Jesus 2000 years ago, Jesus’ promise to come again in the future, and the real presence of Jesus now.
I love all those celebrations in the church. But I don’t look forward to holiday time. Holidays accentuate my grief over my son’s death and his enormous absence in my life.
My wife and I create un-holiday time. We won’t cook a feast or put presents under a tree. Instead, we will be those people who eat out and shop, or go to a movie on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Some people think that makes us part of a problem: forcing people to work on Thanksgiving or Christmas. I think there might be another perspective though.
Maybe some people want to work on Thanksgiving or Christmas. Maybe they want to get out of their houses, too. Maybe they don’t have families that are pleasant to get together with. Maybe they don’t have a family at all. Maybe they are getting out of a house filled with violence or neglect or addiction or loneliness. Maybe they are working to survive. Maybe the time we take to be kind and gentle toward them, or the extra big tips we leave, will be something they won’t get at home. Who knows? I only know that even if everything closed, not everyone would be having a wonderful time with a loving family in a beautiful home.
Recently, I discovered a worship time I wasn’t familiar with − Longest Night on Dec. 21. I made time for it on our already full church calendar, because Longest Night creates a time to honor and acknowledge those who don’t feel happy and hopeful during the holidays. It creates a time to proclaim the Good News to those in pain, who probably need to hear it most. If that’s you, we’d love for you to join us for Longest Night.
Longest Night Service: 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 21 at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, located at 1208 Rose Creek Drive, Woodstock, GA 30189.
By Rev. Dr. Paul W. Baumgartner, contributing writer and senior pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.