Being Kind on the Winter Solstice

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice, Dec. 21, 2014 photo credit - Kevin Jones

Winter Solstice, Dec. 21, 2014
photo credit – Kevin Jones

Being Kind on the Winter Solstice

Today is the Winter Solstice. It is the shortest day of the year, for those of you who are not familiar with this terminology. Yes, it is also Sunday. I led a worship service at my church this morning. Yet, I also walked through a sleeping garden today. The Chicago Botanic Gardens.

The Winter Solstice is the time of the shortest day, the time of the longest night. Starting tomorrow, the days will grow longer once more and the dark will wane. But today, tonight is the time of the most dark.

This morning at church was the fourth Sunday of Advent. We lit four Advent candles on the Advent wreath this morning. The lighting of candles, the return of the light is a prominent feature of the Christmas festival. The kindling of light is a similar feature in many other midwinter festivals—Hanukkah, for example. Sankta Lucia, and the Yule Log, to mention two more.

At the Botanic Garden at this time of the year, the lights are prominently displayed in many parts of the central gardens. Since this past weekend had a few temperate days, lots of people were visiting. Walking the paths, through the greenhouses, and viewing the special display. Oh, and the lights. Over 750,000 strings of lights decorate the outside areas. Mostly white lights, but also mixed with some red and green, with a few golden accents.

My husband, daughter and I walked through the garden, as I said, later in the afternoon. We sat on a bench for some little while, looking across the lagoon. And as dusk approached in the muted light of the overcast afternoon, the strings of colored lights shone more brightly.

When I see the quiet panorama of the winter Garden, I think of nature sleeping. I see the effects of the decreasing light. Because of my line of work, from time to time I have people telling me of their sadness, sometimes depression, at this holiday time of the year. Sometimes, it is beneficial to sit and be quiet at this time—if we can find the time. Certain people set aside the time around the Solstice as a time of quiet and reflection. (Just a suggestion.)

I try to meditate and pray on a regular basis. At the Winter Solstice, at the waning of the year, I can take advantage of this quiet, peaceful time. I can use this time not only for reflection, but also to let go. To release sad things, mad things, bad things. To lighten up and get rid of resentments and other baggage I’m holding onto. That way, I’m not only being kind to others, I am ultimately being kind to myself.

And, God willing, I can spread some of the light. The light that God brings into the world.

Winter Solstice at dusk, Dec. 21, 2014 photo credit - Kevin Jones

Winter Solstice at dusk, Dec. 21, 2014
photo credit – Kevin Jones

@chaplaineliza

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In Which I Am Planning to Be of Service—at a Service

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Blue Christmas tree

In Which I Am Planning to Be of Service—at a Service

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”—or, is it? Christmas can be difficult for many people, for many reasons. I did a good deal of planning today. Preparing the order of service for a very special, alternative Christmas service next Monday night.

I don’t know whether you might have heard of a “Blue Christmas” service. Perhaps by another name? The Longest Night service? A service held either on or close to the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. A service for people for whom Christmas is a difficult time.

The custom of holding Blue Christmas services has been growing over the past ten years. The name refers to the loneliness, sadness and grieving people sometimes experience during the holiday season. Many people consider the holidays to be such a “happy, joyous time.” However, holiday and family gatherings can be negative and difficult. This Blue Christmas service is a time and place where sad, grieving, lonely people can join together to share their emotions with people who feel the same way.

This will be a subdued Blue Christmas service, on Monday, Dec. 22 with quiet music, reflective readings, a brief time for silent contemplation, community candle-lighting, and a reflection from me (as one of the service leaders). My good friend Chaplain Sarah is going to co-lead this service with me. (Thank you so much, Sarah!)

I know very well that there have been years when I have dreaded the holidays. When this whole season of the year was just a time to be endured, a time to grieve, a time to hold on by my fingernails. Yes, I have anxious, fearful, recurring memories of those holiday seasons. (And, yes. There were more than one holiday season when I felt this way.)

So, I want to offer this Blue Christmas service as an opportunity for those among us who are having a difficult time. Or, who have recently been through something negative and traumatic. Or, who are especially feeling the loss of someone dear at this time of the year. This is a time and place—a space where people can gather together in a refuge from the festivities and “jollity” of the season. And, a place where such sad, anxious, negative, grieving feelings can be brought out into the open. God willing, validated, and expressed.

“The most wonderful time of the year?” For some people? No, not really. Sorry. Maybe next year.

(This Blue Christmas service will be held at St. Luke’s Christian Community Church on Monday, Dec. 22 at 7:00 pm. The church is located at 9233 Shermer in Morton Grove, Illinois, and is fully handicapped accessible. Just in case this information is helpful to anyone. God’s gentle blessings at this sometimes-difficult time of the year.)

@chaplaineliza

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