Shuck and Jive

Monday, December 21, 2009

Blues for Christmas: A Meditation

Here is the meditation I gave for our Winter Solstice service:

Blues for Christmas
John Shuck
First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee
December 21st 2009

Today is the longest night.

The spiritual path of darkness is the via negativa.

It is for those who are acquainted with the night, like Robert Frost in his 1923 poem:

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain -- and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
O luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

There is a story about Carl Jung, the famous psychotherapist.

The story is that when people would come to him with sad feelings, uncertain feelings, angst or anger, grief or despair because of something that had happened. The story is that he open a bottle of champagne (must have had a lot of champagne) and would tell them, “This is great news! Good things are bound to happen now!”

When someone would come with news of a promotion at work or some other seemingly fortunate event, he would shake his head sadly and say how sorry he was for them.

I am sure it is apocryphal but insightful nevertheless.

The truth is that “this too shall pass.”

Whatever this is, it will pass. Change is the harshest and most glorious truth of all.

As seasons come and go, so our lives come and go, and ebb and flow.

The wise among us allow the seasons and the tides and the cycles of birth and death to be our teachers.

So on the darkest night of the year, what we appropriately celebrate is light! Because from now on (for at least a half a year), we will be experiencing more light each day. Good things are bound to happen now!

If you are here tonight it is very likely that you, too, are acquainted with the night. A loss, a disappointment, a relocation, a tragedy, an illness, or a lingering melancholy, perhaps aided by cloudy, cool, dark skies can put one in a funk.

The whole happy family Christmas thing that is continuously piped in so that every nook and cranny is flooded with Christmas cheer can serve to make it worse.

As that song from Dean Martin goes:

The jingle bells are jingling
The streets are white with snow
The happy crowds are mingling
But there's no one that I know

I'm sure that you'll forgive me
If I don't enthuse
I guess I've got the Christmas blues

I've done my window shopping
There's not a store I've missed
But what's the use of stopping
When there's no one on your list
You'll know the way I'm feeling
When you love and you lose
I guess I've got the Christmas blues

When somebody wants you
Somebody needs you
Christmas is a joy of joy
But friends when you're lonely
You'll find that it's only
A thing for little girls and little boys

May all your days be merry
Your seasons full of cheer
But 'til it's January
I'll just go and disappear

Oh Santa may have brought you some stars for your shoes
But Santa only brought me the blues
Those brightly packaged tinsel covered Christmas blues

So tonight, we take it on.

Hey, rather than sit in front of the TV you made it out.

Santa may have brought us the blues for Christmas,
...but it is bound to get better.

We tell a little bit of truth tonight.

Sometimes life is heavy.

We sing the blues to get through it.

The via negativa or the way of letting go and letting be is recognizing that even as we may not be conscious of what is happening, life is happening in the dark.
Growth is occurring.
Seeds are germinating.
Creativity is being nourished.

It is in the darkness of the womb—that is why we celebrate Mary being pregnant with the Son of God! It isn’t literalism, it is archetypal. In the darkness of the womb is where God—where Life—is creating!

The darkness of earth nurtures the seed.
The darkness of space nurtures the stars.
The darkness of our experience nurtures our creativity and our blessing.

We don’t have to know how it all works now.
We don’t have to search for it.
It is enough to know that creativity is at work while we sit.

The tears we shed as we walk the darkness looking down “the saddest city lane” will will water the creativity that will someday be a blessing to us and to others.

Tonight, we don’t need to figure any of it out.

It is OK to sit with our Christmas blues and let it go.

One more poem.

This is by Rebecca Parker and it’s entitled Winter Solstice.


for a moment
the typewriters will stop clicking,
the wheels stop rolling
the computers desist from computing,
and a hush will fall over the city.
For an instant, in the stillness,
the chiming of the celestial spheres will be heard
as earth hangs poised
in the crystalline darkness, and then
Let there be a season
when holiness is heard, and
the splendor of living is revealed.
Stunned to stillness by beauty
we remember who we are and why we are here.
There are inexplicable mysteries.
We are not alone.
In the universe there moves a Wild One
whose gestures alter earth's axis
toward love.
In the immense darkness
everything spins with joy.
The cosmos enfolds us.
We are caught in a web of stars,
cradled in a swaying embrace,
rocked by the holy night,
babes of the universe.
Let this be the time
we wake to life,
like spring wakes, in the moment
of winter solstice.

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