Blessed are the Poor in Spirit…

I’m preparing for the “Blue Christmas” service tomorrow night. (I’m on an internal campaign to change the name next year to “A Service for the Longest Nights,” as others are calling it… or something akin. Frankly, “Blue Christmas” has too much Elvis in it for me… and “Longest Night” is so much more creative: speaking of Winter’s solstice and hurting folks going through long, sleepless nights – made even longer by the pomp of the Season and our culture’s emphasis on “fa la la la la…”)

If it’s not clear already, the function of the service is to reach out to those going through any number of griefs and mournings in life… and to help them to find the deep meaning of the Season in their times of feeling “blue”—in their long and lonely nights. And here, while the death of loved ones is clearly our most immediate thought, let us not forget those who are grieving the loss of jobs, the loss of a marriage, the loss of what never was,…

Realist that I am (and here, I guess I need to apologize to those eternal optimists who don’t want any “downers” in their Christmas… or Christianity… or life)… Realist that I am, I have to say that I believe the majority of folks live with at least some part of their being in some kind of “long night”—some kind of “dark night of the soul,” as St. Teresa put it. It’s a notion akin to my belief that each of us is broken. How did Thoreau put it – about our all living “lives of quiet desperation”? Yes, while some may be in denial and some may think the best way to get better is to put a positive face on things, I believe that “Blue Christmas” and “Longest Nights” are realities for us all!

In fact, there’s the way they [i.e., mourning and grieving] need to be realities for us – if we are to experience the full joy and meaning of the gift of God… at Christmas and beyond. The Scriptures abound with direct and indirect declarations that it is the lost and the least and the lonely that find the real life and living of God’s Kingdom:

  • “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.” (Or as I translate it: “Blessed are they who declare Spiritual bankruptcy, for they are finally in a position to let God have His way!”)
  • “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”
  • “If I must boast, I will boast in the things that show my weakness… For in my weakness he is glorified.”

I’m strongly believing, then, that the most appropriate and meaningful Service of Worship for Advent is, in fact, this “Service for a Longest Night… or ‘Blue Christmas’”… and that those who are in the best position to receive God’s gifts in Christmas are those who humbly admit that it’s the service they need. From the beginning, Advent has been a Season of yearning, hungering, thirsting… — with a strong pinch of hope for and anticipation of deliverance from the Outside. From the beginning, Advent has been a Season best experienced by the outcast and downcast.

(And here my Soul wants to ask forgiveness of God: that, in just one more way, we’ve let the World around us dictate and drive the spirit of our spiritual exercises and Church year!)

Even if you do not attend this year’s “Blue Christmas,” can I encourage you to:

  • pray for all around who are broken… and who mourn and grieve… and whose mourning and grieving is that much harder because of the secular foci of the season; and
  • prayerfully consider your own brokenness

The Light is brightest at night…

And Heaven’s riches are most valued when we see our poverty!

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