Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Light in the midst of darkness

Last night, for the first time, I participated in a longest night service at church—a service for those who need extra emotional support at the holidays due to a loss of one sort or another. It was lovely, and included harp solos and two songs by the Doylestown Comfort Choir, a group of women who will come sing at the bedside of people nearing the end of life's journey. They sounded like angels. When the time comes, if I could have the privilege of crossing the threshold from this world to the next ushered by their voices, I'd choose it.

For last night's service I wrote a prayer. I remember how hard it was to pray in the early weeks and months after Ron's suicide, because I couldn't find the words. If ever in my life there existed a need for prayer this was it, but I didn't know what I was asking for, or from whom. My girlhood prayers had been a bit like lists delivered while sitting on Santa's lap, and now that I was grown, and paralyzed with horror and shock, I didn't even know what I wanted.

Maybe I did: I wanted to feel less profoundly alone. I remember sitting still with my hands upturned, hoping that all those extra sense receptors along my fingertips and palms might literally feel God's presence. And while I didn't feel anything like Santa taking my hand, I did feel a golden presence fill my body. Light coursed through my veins. It was beautiful, wordless prayer and I knew I was not alone.

Now that I have reconnected with my words I hoped to share something of that with those who came to Doylestown Presbyterian Church last night. I share my prayer here for those who might need it. I began with an introduction:

The winter solstice is wedged between a holiday in which we give thanks and a holiday in which we give gifts. But as we gather here on this longest night, many of us recognize that we don’t have a whole lot more to give. I want to assure you that you have found respite from all that giving within this sanctuary tonight. Tonight we are here to receive. Our God is glorious, our God is merciful, and our God can restore us. As we now bow our heads together, I encourage you to place your hands on your lap, palms up, to receive God’s love. Let us pray.

Heavenly father:
We gather before you, on this longest night, in a posture of surrender. Some of us feel used up. Exhausted. Broken, from the burden of loss. We pray for healing, for ourselves and for those we love.

We remember Christmases past, and how easy it was to be thankful for the gifts that came in beautifully wrapped packages—for gifts that smelled like freshly baked bread, that tasted like chocolate ice cream, that sounded like laughter, that felt like sun-warmed sand.

We’d rather not accept the challenge of gifts that arrive in less desirable wrappings—for gifts that smell like fear, that taste like defeat, that sound like trouble, that feel like loss.

Lord, restore our faith that while gifts with such wrappings are not immediately appreciated, or easy to open, you have the power to hide within them gifts of spirit that bring us closer to one another, and closer to you.

So often we have prayed to you, our hands tightly clasped, hoping that if we are grateful enough for the loving gifts in our lives, they will never be torn from our grasp. Tonight, help us to let go enough to accept the greater wisdom of your will.

Let our upturned hands feel your presence in this room. Keep us safe as we grieve our losses fearlessly, that we might honor the love we have known. Help us to leave some of our burden here at your altar, on this longest night, for we can no longer carry it alone. And as the nights grow shorter in the coming weeks, help us, with returning hope, to reach again for the warmth of the rising sun, in faith that all things come and all must go, and that this is as it should be.

We feel closer to you when we recall that your greatest gift—the gift of redemption through Jesus Christ—was ultimately wrapped in torture and sorrow. You too have suffered. Yet still, you loved. Tonight we ask so very much, yet nothing more than what you promised us through the sacrifice of your own son: we ask that you grace our upturned palms with your healing love.

In Jesus' name we pray,

I wish you all meaningful moments of reflection this holiday season, and as much peace and love as you can handle.


Jerry Waxler said...

Thanks for this Kathryn, a beautiful prayer, and also the sharing of a beautiful moment. This is right at the core of why I write, and read, to bridge the gap, to reach towards comfort, to feel less alone, and more supported. Sharing is its own reward. By sharing your moment in church, you bring the warmth of spirituality to every day life.

Best wishes,
Memory Writers Network

Kathryn Craft said...

Thanks, Jerry. I waffled a bit on whether to post it, since I'm no evangelist. But it's hard to discuss these deep philosophical issues without crossing over into contemplations about the infinite. I appreciate your support, and your beautifully written comment.

Lisa R. Tomarelli said...

What a beautiful prayer. Thank you for sharing.

Kathryn Craft said...

Thanks, Lisa. :)

Kate Brandes said...

Lovely. Thank you so much for sharing it.

Kathryn Craft said...

Thanks, Kate. Merry Christmas.