This is my message for a Longest Night Service tonight at my church. Please note this is 1/2 of the message as a friend and fellow intern will offer a mediation on John 1 as the message of hope in light of struggle. This meditation touches on how life hurts and how we search for hope in the midst of hurt. The other message (not printed here) is how we find that hope. Comments are welcome.
Gen 1: 1-4
“And God separated the light from the darkness.” It may help here if we highlight another way to define darkness according to Old Testament culture. Darkness was not only the absence of form and shape but it also describes the presence of chaos. In other words, according to the people of the Old Testament, God didn’t merely create something from a formless void. He created shape out of the shapeless chaos that existed.
We come to this service this evening with many things weighing on our minds and hearts. It is with confusion that we come to this place in the hope that some sense and order can be made out of the chaos we experience. And frankly, the season of Christmas isn’t high on our priority list right now. Who has time or energy for the season when everything else weighs so heavily?
I remember the conversation as though it were yesterday. I sat across from him at a local coffee shop. And all he could say was, “I just don’t understand, I thought I did everything right.” We sat in silence. I didn’t know what to say-I didn’t feel adequate to speak to his situation. How does one speak to someone when their spouse ends their marriage so suddenly? How does one offer any words when they are sitting from a friend who thought they did everything right in their relationship, just to find out it wasn’t good enough and that the person they had planned the rest of their life around had decided without warning they couldn’t go through with the marriage any more? “It’s as though every point of reference in my life has been shattered,” he said. “It’s like I turn to all of the old, familiar things in my life: our house, our dog, all of our stuff, and our plans we’ve had for the last 8 years, and I can’t recognize them anymore.” And I sat and listened as he explained that he was a loving and faithful mate. They had planned their life out and were in the process of working into their master plan. He planned his major in college according to those life plans and was struggling to find a job now but was committed to their plan. They had even picked out names for their children they hopes to have soon. I sat as he mourned a death. It wasn’t the death of a person-but it was the death of something seemingly as alive and vibrant as a person-a committed marriage built on trust and devotion. And now it was gone in the blink of an eye and a sudden revelation when he got home from work and found a “Dear John” note next to her side of the bed. And then he asked that question every pastor prays they never get asked. “Why does God allow for something like this to happen?” “I don’t know,” was all I could manage to get out. What else do you say?
There are days when we stand in the wake of all that life can throw at us. There are days when we find ourselves sitting in the ash heap of broken relationships, of the memories of loved ones who’ve passed away, and we realize all of the reference points we associated with how our life are understood shattered and gone. We find that darkness and chaos cover the face of our lives. And all we can hope is that somehow, someway, the Spirit of God is hovering over this chaos we now call life. And we wait, wondering it will ever get better. We wait, and we pray that God will indeed separate light out of the chaos of the darkness that seems to rule our lives right now. But until that day, we wait. Amen.