The Longest Night: A Bible Study for Asbury's Blue Christmas Worship
by Rev. Lee Johnson
December 19, 2021
This Tuesday, exactly at 9:59 a.m., the sun reaches its year’s furthest distance from Kansas City, marking the Winter Solstice and the official beginning of the winter season. Much of December 21 will be spent in darkness, with only nine hours, twenty-five minutes, and eight seconds of actual sunlight. The following day will bring an additional two seconds of sunlight. Thanks be to God. But, throughout scripture, darkness portrays an ominous threat. Just count the number of times the word darkness appears within the struggles of Job in the Old Testament. Or, remember the darkness that covered the land on the afternoon of Jesus’ death. Yet, the story of God begins with the insertion of light into the darkness that covered the face of the land when God spoke God’s first words: “Let there be light.” Still, our part of the world will spend much more time in darkness this Tuesday than we will on any other day of the year. Seasonal depression is a disorder that occurs when there is less sunlight. Symptoms can include fatigue, depression, hopelessness, and social withdrawal. Have you, or do you know someone, who suffers from seasonal depression? What significance can be found in the first words God spoke?
The Gospel of John, in its very first verse, reminds us “in the beginning was the word.” Well, we know the first words God spoke: “Let there be light.” Recalling that, John quickly reminds us, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” John does not promise a life without darkness, but does promise light for the darkness: “the true light, which enlightens everyone, is coming into the world.” John says that light is Jesus. This Sunday afternoon at Asbury, we gather for a Blue Christmas worship service to name the dark moments of our past year, moments which meant loss and disappointment, moments that shade our Christmas with blue. In the Gospel of John, the writer says John the Baptist came first to testify to the light. We too will testify to this light at the Blue Christmas service by not only naming our dark moments of living in 2021, but by also lighting a candle remembering and believing, “the light shines in darkness and the darkness does not overcome it. If you were to name your “blue” moments from this past year, what might they be? What is the significance of the promise found in the opening words of John’s gospel?
Lest we forgot, not all the world will be thrown into darkness on December 21, only half of it. For right below us in the southern hemisphere, the Summer Solstice takes place. In Sydney, Australia, December 22 at 2:58 a.m. marks the beginning of the longest day of the year – 14 hours, 24 minutes, and 46 seconds of sunlight. Still, we all know, even the brightest, lightest days of the year can bring dark moments. Which takes us back to the Christmas story: and the Word which, from the get-go, created light for the darkness, became flesh in Jesus for everyone, regardless of hemisphere. This word, says John’s Christmas Story, came to live amongst us full of truth and grace so the darkness might not overwhelm us! Merry Christmas, everyone! Don’t forget to light a candle and give God thanks. The darkness need not overwhelm us.
Genesis 1: 1-5; John 1: 1-18
Asbury's Weekend Worship: https://www.visitasbury.org/worship/
Beginning Sunday, December 19 at 11 a.m. for Live Stream or 5 p.m. for recording.
Also, watch the Blue Christmas Service here: https://www.visitasbury.org/blue-christmas/
"The darkness does not overcome the light."