The Longest Night

Fifty-nine degrees on the first day of winter. Very pleasant compared to what it could be…and will be in the future. The Winter Solstice marks the shortest night in the year. Contrary to what almost everyone says regarding being lovers of long days and short nights…I must disagree! I worked evenings and nights for much of my career. I became accustomed to life after the sun sets. It was an acquired taste… Several years ago when my step-father was alive we would visit he and my mom after Christmas and often stay a few days with them at their home in Eldorado, Illinois. About 2 or at the most 3 days after Christmas Earl would gaze longingly out of the kitchen window and announce that the days were getting longer… MJ would heartily agree with him…and they were happy.

Advent is here…and so we wait. We wait for the birth of the Christ child in the manger surrounded by the animals of the stable. Life has been very strange for us in 2020. I remember…almost like it was but a year ago…how excited that I was to be entering the year 2020! We had a trip to Maine planned for the Spring and in 2021 a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. In January I recall hearing a small news item regarding a strange new virus in China that caused the government officials to lock down the town of Wuhan and it sounded very bad… There are illnesses across our globe…I did not visualize a pandemic. Life changed in sudden and dramatic and devastating ways…and we were not prepared. 319 thousand of our families and friends and neighbors have died of Covid-19. Over 3 thousand citizens are dying each day. Restaurants are closed accept for take-out…many small business have gone out of business…our church has not gathered in our building since March and it will probably be at least March 2021 before we are able to reconvene. So…we wait to receive our vaccine. We wait ‘For the peace of God that passes all understanding…’

We are each others answer to sadness and despair and depression. It has been abundantly clear to me that during our year of isolation that the popular American singer and actress, Barbara Streisand, was right when she sang, ‘People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.’

Pastor Kerry was reflecting on Joseph and Mary of the Christmas Story. When we see our Nativity sets or paintings of the birth of Jesus…we see a beatific Mary and a humble and quiet Joseph and we assume that their long journey by donkey and walking to Bethlehem… was like being on a cloud of glory and rapture. Mary was told that she would give birth to a son and to name him Jesus and that, ‘Don’t be afraid Mary. You have found favor with God. You will become pregnant, give birth to a son, and name him Jesus…’ The angel came to Joseph in a dream and explained to him that Mary was pregnant with the Son of God and that she was a chaste woman and that he should marry her. Mary and Joseph’s lives were disrupted and turned upside down! Life is not always simple!

There were more Christmas ornaments along the Campus Woods path, today. I have noticed that folks are now taking photographs of them and enjoying their hope and beauty. We are all taking more time to notice the splendor that we have been dropped into…as if from another world. When I see lovingly placed ornaments I think of the good will for all men that Charles Dickens spoke of in a Christmas Carol. The lovely smiles of others…which now I only see on Zoom due to the necessity of wearing a face mask, I see the happiness of Tiny Tim, who according to his father, sang louder than anyone else in the Christmas Service! When I see the bright visage of Santa Claus…and the ‘twinkle in his eye’…and the ‘smoke coming from his little pipe and encircling his head like a wreath…’ I see the little Laughing Santa of my youth and my happily turning the crank on his back and laughing along with him…at the joyous possibilities ahead for us…

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