Many of you know that Zion has a long tradition of gathering on the Sunday evening before Christmas, the evening of the last Sunday in Advent for a service known as “Quiet Christmas.” Situated near the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, it is a worship opportunity that typically stands in contrast to the sights and sounds of the season around us at that time. It stands in contrast to the busyness that is frequently a part of December. A Quiet Christmas provides a time of contemplation and renewal for those who are especially seeking it: those who grieve, those who are feeling depleted, those who simply want a silent night in order to begin to welcome the Christ child once again.
This year, Zion’s Quiet Christmas will be a service of evening prayer held at 7:00pm on Wednesday, December 23rd. As always, it will be the first of our Christmas gatherings, this year on Zoom.
It is worth an acknowledgement in these pages that there will be more quiet to Christmas (and, for that matter, to Advent) this year. As a country, we are entering the most sobering season of the pandemic so far. Our health care workers are overwhelmed, our children are being asked to adapt to frequent changes in their schedules, all of us are weary. We are confident that the light will return, we are hopeful, and yet we also recognize that the darkness is deep right now.
Which is why I think we are called to a particular kind of service to our communities this year. The church is in a position to remind our neighbors (and ourselves) that quiet is not the same as sorrowful, that moments of meditation and contemplation and simply slowing down in order to hear God more clearly—these are things the church has always known and valued.
As I reflect on the coming season of Advent and the days of Christmas, I keep coming back to the Magnificat of Mary recorded in the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel. We always think of this as a soothing, quiet song, almost a lullaby. And yet, while that may well have been true of this beautiful poem, it is also a poem of stunning reversals, of the hungry filled with good food, of the lowly lifted up. Mary’s song is a quiet song, and it is also a song of the radical transformation God promises. Mary’s song is proof that mighty acts of God can grow even in the quiet, in the silence, in the waiting. Perhaps that is where they grow especially well.
Later in this newsletter, you will see more about the occasions for worship and prayer at Zion during December. We have a robust calendar of opportunities to connect, even if that connection is not in the ways we are used to. As you go through this season, I wish for all of you the kind of hope that is kindled in the darkness and in the silence. I wish for you a quiet Advent and Christmas with Mary singing softly in the background about the mighty ways God is acting in this very moment. I wish for you a peace and hope that wraps you in song and candlelight and the good news of Christ breaking into our world, a light to scatter the darkness.
Blessings to you!