Love in a Long December

1 John 4:16

This past weekend, my best friend from college lost her dad to the effects of Parkinson’s disease. I grieve for her loss and for a good man I have known for 30 years.

My own father passed away 23 years ago on December 6 at the age of 52 from a heart attack. He went to sleep and never awoke. The unfolding events of the 24 hours that followed are burned into my memory. At that time, there was a popular band who had a hit song called “Long December.” I identified so closely with many phrases in the song. Here are the lyrics:

A long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can’t remember the last thing that you said as you were leaving
Now the days go by so fast

The smell of hospitals in winter
And the feeling that it’s all a lot of oysters but no pearls
All at once, you look across a crowded room
To see the way that light attaches to a girl

Drove up to Hillside Manor sometime after two A.M
And talked a little while about the year
I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower
Makes you talk a little lower
About the things you could not show her
And it’s been a long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass

And it’s one more day up in the canyon
And it’s one more night in Hollywood
It’s been so long since I’ve seen the ocean
I guess I should

Grief has been such a significant piece of this pandemic year. Grief over “normal,” hugging, singing, celebrations, bedside vigils with our dying family members, funerals, baptisms, pastors arriving and departing churches, etc. has us bound in its grip. Like a country caught up in wartime, we soldier on and make the best of things, even as we mourn.

In the liturgical season of Advent, this fourth Sunday is about love. Amidst our blue Christmas, chocked full of grief and loss, we hold fast to what love has wrought us. Love has given us not only the people we miss but also those quarantined alongside us. Love has taught us that we are stronger when we work together rather than in spite of one another. Love has reminded us that we don’t need the distractions of this earthly world; in truth what we really need is one another.

God comes in love to us in the form of a vulnerable baby. Perhaps that, too, is a lesson for us as we learn new ways of life after pandemic. Vulnerability in our love fosters more intimate care and stronger bonds. We connect more to God in the birth, life, and death of Jesus because the journey of this life is shared. As we close out this year, eager for a new one and the hope of returning to life as it was, let us not lose the valuable lessons love has taught us this year. May God abide as we find hope anew in one another and a tiny baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.

—Rev. Sheresa Simpson-Rice
Interim Associate Conference Minister

© Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ | 2023