top of page

Walking Through the Shadows


For many years I hosted a Christmas service around the solstice – the longest night of the year - that was intended for those who find the holidays hard. People would show up in the aftermath of a devastating loss, or because they needed some respite from all the joy out there. Some people would come because this time of year always reminds them of what they’ve lost. Some people came because it was the one place they didn’t have to pretend.


"Christmas was never intended to be a season that dosed us

with so much joy we would forget our pain."


One year, a couple came with hearts shattered at the sudden death of their newborn baby. As they walked through the church doors I could feel their grief, their numbness. It’s like they were completely enveloped in a thick fog. Their eyes were blank and wet. Something touched them that night, in the warm embrace of the dark church. That hour turned out to be a key milestone on their grief journey. They returned to church again and again, they found a community of people who walked alongside their agonizing pain. Some years later I asked about the impact of that night, what was it that touched them so deeply? The response was remarkably simple and profound. They found a place to be with their broken hearts at Christmas. In the joyous season, there was room for their grief.


Many centuries ago, the church chose to place the celebration of the birth of Jesus in the time of year that was already established with solstice rituals. The coming of the Christ light became all wrapped up in the pagan rituals that remind us of the gift of the darkness. Hidden in that mashing together is this promise that the entirety of your life, the good, the bad, and the ambiguous are held in holy light.


That’s the thing about these holidays. On the one hand it’s all jolly and merry. The parties, the lights, the incessant Christmas carols filling our ears wherever we go; it all shouts: “life is good, all is well with the world!” At the same time, the days get shorter, darkness creeps slowly in. All this hyped-up jolliness is held within the cocoon of short days and long nights beckoning us to slow down and rest. What if Christmas made a bit more room for the shadows in all its glittery light? Could we find a deeper peace if we stopped trying to blot out the shadows?


The commercial madness that has seeped into the season has, in many ways, thrown off the balance. It seems to offer us the promise that we can eat and drink and shop our way out of all that troubles us. It seems to promise that we can outshine the shadows with joy and celebration, with good cheer and excess. Our lives tell us otherwise. Our experience insists that this journey is far more complex than the commercial Christmas suggests. There is plenty of trouble and pain and despair around the world this year. Our lives insist that there are shadows and light, in every season and sometimes it is the darkness that feels more present, more alive for us.


Christmas was never intended to be a season that dosed us with so much joy we would

forget our pain. It’s more of a season that says, the holy one is with you through all of it, there is room for you with all the complexity of your life.



I think sometimes that the invitation of this season, this holy time, is not to live as though all is merry and bright, not to run as fast as we can from the shadows. But instead, in a much more nuanced way, to walk through the shadows, trusting that the light will break through and meet us. To move through the shadows in a very attentive and intentional way. To not rush the process but to trust the process. To move past the longest night and welcome a new dawn that can even embrace our often broken and aching hearts.


6件のコメント


tammy dewar
tammy dewar
2023年12月14日

I well remember our first Blue Christmas with you in 2015 and will forever be grateful to you for offering this space for us that didn't require us to do or be a single thing. To be able to be with our grief, in community with others who were hurting, and just be together was such a gift. No one tried to fix me, or point out silver linings, or offer any platitudes. People, and you, were strong enough and kind enough to hold space for our shattered hearts and help us to not feel so alone. The Blue Christmas service has become a sacred Christmas tradition for our family. Yesterday's service was lovely and everything we needed. And not…

いいね!
Beth Hayward
Beth Hayward
2023年12月14日
返信先

Good to hear from you Tammy, you've had a powerful impact on my understanding of what people need when their hearts are shattered.

いいね!

Ellen Matthews
Ellen Matthews
2023年12月10日

Thank you Beth, your words always hold so much truth and bring so much clarity. Sometimes I think we get so caught up in the traditions of Christmas and the "perfection" of it alll that when tragedy does strike we think we can never find comfort in the season. Everything that we envisioned as perfect destroyed. But if you walk through the shadows as you have said and not run from the pain, it is amazing the joy that can be found in a new and imperfect life. Miss you always and thank you for sharing your words.


いいね!
Beth Hayward
Beth Hayward
2023年12月14日
返信先

Ellen, thanks for reading and commenting. I like the idea of a new and imperfect life!

いいね!

Bob Peacock
Bob Peacock
2023年12月06日

Thank you Beth. Yes, we get all caught up in the hustle and bustle and forget those around us who are hurting for whatever reason. I love that you say to move through the shadows in a very attentive and intentonal way. Not rush the process but trust. Welsome the new dawn that can even embrace our often broken and aching hearts. Amen.


いいね!
Beth Hayward
Beth Hayward
2023年12月14日
返信先

Thanks Bob, I really appreciate your words.


いいね!
bottom of page