A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: Grieving Our Losses

For the second year in a row, a snowstorm has disrupted our “Longest Night” Service, this year postponing it to the actual “longest night:” the winter solstice on Monday, December 21.

As I’ve said previously, this is an important service in ordinary times, providing space for those who are grieving a loss in their lives in some way (whether a person, a job, an experience, a dream) to engage the deep truths of Advent and Christmas without feeling forced into experiences of cheer that they are not feeling. And this year, it seems particularly important, because all of us, simply by living through the pandemic, have multiple dimensions of loss to grieve.

Yet it also occurs to me that there is something both ironic and powerful in having our scheduled service to address the losses we are carrying so disrupted. Because the truth is that grief over a loss does not keep a tight schedule. Grief does not show up for a cup of tea when it’s invited, have a good visit, and then leave with vague assurances that we should do this again sometime.

Grief often comes knocking uninvited at all hours, wanting to sit up sharing stories and feelings all night. Grief frequently overstays its welcome, or arrives at an awkward time when you’re really trying to spend time with other people or doing other things. And grief demands your attention anytime it shows up, and often doesn’t listen when you ask it to quiet down or come back another time.

But I also think that’s why setting aside time to focus on our feelings and experiences of loss is also important, especially as Christians. Because grief can also be very isolating, particularly in the lead-up to Christmas.

So it’s helpful to know there is space in which we can both invite grief to show up for some intentional time we have set aside for it, and space in which we can be with others who are doing the same, and know that even though the particularities of grief are as unique as the reasons for it, there are many others going through a similar experience within whom we can both give and receive support through our prayers and presence.

So, I hope that you will come be a part of the Longest Night Service on Monday, December 21 at
6:30 p.m. You will need to prepare your elements for home communion, and I encourage you to have a candle or candles available for lighting, as there is a candlelighting ritual that is an important part of this service.

You will also have the opportunity to virtually light candles representing the loss or losses that you are carrying during the service; we will explain how to do that in the service itself. In the meantime, God’s blessings of comfort and peace be with you as we approach the Fourth Sunday of Advent, and prepare to give thanks for the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas!

Grace and Peace,

Available to livestream on our Facebook page and on our website homepage.

To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 834 9521 3745 followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – press the # key again.