Daniel P. Strandlund
St. John’s Episcopal Church
Blue Christmas, week of 3rd Advent
December 16, 2015
¦a dimly burning wick he will not quench¦. (Isaiah 42:3)
The prophet Isaiah writes of the Holy One of God, A dimly burning wick he will not quench¦.
The holidays are a strange time because they clash together two very different kinds of experience. On the one hand the holidays are super chaotic: crazy check-out lines at Target, family coming and going, wrapping presents, writing Christmas cards and thank you notes, going to myriad holiday parties, all that stuff.
But on the other hand, the holidays bring up our most tender emotions. For some of us, the holidays signal hope for days to come. The birth of a new baby or grandbaby. A relationship rekindled. A new job, or new house. Hope is a tender thing.
For others, the holidays fill us with gratitude: for the people sitting next to us in the pews, for friends and family, for church, for coworkers, for health, for simple pleasures. Gratitude is a tender thing.
Yet for others, the holidays remind us of loss experienced in the past year. The loss of a job, or a relationship ended; a move across the state; a falling out with a friend or relative. Christmas reminds us of losses which are still tender.
And still for others, the holidays bring up grief, both old and new, of loved ones who have died. Maybe this is our first Christmas without that particular someone whom we wish was still sitting beside us in the pew. The first time we decorate a tree alone, or the first time we have Christmas dinner without that particular someone.
Grief is a strange thing. We can be in a room filled with people who knew our deceased loved one, and yet we still feel alone, even amidst so many friends. Why is that? I think it’s because no one in that room loved that person in exactly the same way you did. No one knew them in quite the same way you did. No one feels this grief the way you do. No one has a hole in their heart shaped in exactly the same way that you do.
That hole in your heart is the shape of the very particular and unique love you had and have for your beloved. Grief is lonely because nobody else feels it the way you do.
The holidays bring up all of these most tender feelings”hope, gratitude, loss, grief”and we’re expected to feel all of this in the midst of such a chaotic time. It’s hardly fair. It’s like trying to carry a little stump of a candle through a windstorm. Such a small, tender little brightness in the midst of so much chaos.
For those who grieve, it’s even more difficult. That chaos used to be a source of fun and joy. The shopping, the family gatherings, the stockings and presents and caroling. All the madness was just part of the fun”but now that they’re gone, it’s not the same. It’s like you’re alone with your little candle of memory or hope or love or loss, and all the howling winds are trying to blow it out.
A dimly burning wick he will not quench.
The good news is that Christ carries us like that. With such focus, attention, affection, tenderness”he carries us like a little candle through a windstorm. No matter how dimly our wicks burn, he won’t let us burn out.
God is carrying you through this holiday season. No matter how alone you feel, no matter how chaotic it seems, no matter how lost you are”God is carrying you the whole time. And no matter how dimly your wick burns, He will never lose you and never let you go out.