Julie’s morning column, “Churches try to take the blues out of the holidays,” was being enjoyed while the very secular NPR was addressing a similar theme of “Blue Christmas/Longest Night/Winter Solstice” music of the season. For various reasons (the lost, the lone; the lonely and the deeply grieving), an opportunity to acknowledge the attendant emotions and threats to any hope remaining is important. The opportunities presented at various churches are commendable.
I’d like to also recommend to the larger Christian church community another important commemorative day that has fallen by the wayside in many parts of the secular and religious world: Dec. 25. During my seminary internship decades ago in Minneapolis, the late Dr. Paul Youngdahl of Mount Olivet Lutheran congregation made it a point to share the importance not only of Christmas Eve, but Christmas Day, as well. While even then it was becoming the practice to pull out all of the stops the evening before; Mount Olivet opened its door wide the next morning, also.
“For many,” my mentor taught, “this is the only positive place and experience happening today. Why not observe in a thoughtful, more contemplative way the Word Made Flesh bringing hope and light into this world’s many forms of darkness?”
So, for almost 40 Christmas Days since, my family has been more than gracious in delaying our own gatherings until later in the day … on The Day. Somewhere in the liturgy of morning, the English equivalent of the Latin, “Sursum Corda,” will again be spoken (this year at Prince of Peace Lutheran in Eastmont/Everett) at 10 a.m. Literally, it is an invitation (in spite of all that is awful), to “Lift up our hearts.”
The gathered response for some 19-plus centuries has always been: “We lift them unto the Lord.” Not because we are always “merry” or “happy” as the shallow greetings can become, but because there is a Hope that will ultimately triumph … even in our bluest, darkest hour.” (John 1:1-5)
Have a Blessed Christmas Day and Season!
Rev. Jack Richards