THE LONGEST NIGHT OF THE YEAR

“I’m so discouraged.” ‘Every appointment the president elect makes turns his presidency further into darkness.” “We will not survive four years of this.” “What are we going to do? How will we make it? Could it be any worse?”

These statements and many like them, spoken by pastors and friends, echo through my thoughts on this longest night of the year, in this present darkness. They haunt me. But not with worry. Rather a question of faith – hoping it’s not a crisis of faith.

Is our faith so fragile?

The morning after the election, a friend of mine posted a simple question: Now what do we do? Another friend responded quickly, We do what we always do. We preach the Gospel of Jesus and reach out to those in need.

Can it really be that simple?

It’s never been that simple. As long as I have been in the ministry I have been invited into the darkest of nights that people can imagine. I’ve been allowed to hold hands and pray through three years of a little child’s cancer and then invited to preach for her funeral. I’ve been trusted with the unanswerable questions of a young adult trying to survive his father’s suicide. My arms have been trusted to hold a weeping man as he watched his business go up in flames and saw only darkness. I’ve been allowed to be a trusted companion as a Lutheran Church in another country wrestled with divisiveness, with insults, accusations, mistrust, and finally schism.

Pastors have the honor of welcome into the darkest of nights. We know the frustration when we have no easy answers. We know the personal panic when we understand other’s rants of anger with God. We know the times we really would rather not walk into pain again and again and again. But we do it. A part of ministry for the long haul is reaching out to those in the deepest need, the darkest times. It is struggling to find a good Word from God for the worst of nights. And then it is preaching the Gospel to pain filled eyes and broken hearts.

The Gospel in the night is always the same, A light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it. In a dark night for God’s people a lantern burned in a stable revealing God’s presence in the Little One. In a cold night for outsiders, shepherds saw the glory of God’s angels lighting up their fields. For the withered, for the blind, for the bleeding, for the searching, for the dead – Jesus’ light broke through. In the dark, the light of God shines through.

Can you see it? Wait for it. Look for it. Spot a glimmer. Share the Good News.

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