Monday, December 21— by Antonia Coleman

Here is a link to the Spotify playlist that is peppered throughout this devotional. Please play it and add to it. It is a long night, so I pray that you are blessed with the interactive activity.

Comfort Ye One Another
After a full day of ministry, I settle in for the night. An evening of loving and caring on the screens, in rooms, in services, in webinars, in wonder chats, festivals and I am weary. I wonder if he is awake being an hour ahead. I need a little pick me up…

The Conversation
Antonia: Beloved, are you busy?
Marben: Good evening beloved on this longest night of the year. 
Antonia: I don’t know if I had an opportunity to tell you Happy Winter Solstice!
Marben: Thanks. Is it really a happy day when it is so short?
Antonia: LOL I guess not. It’s good in some ways to have a long night to think and reflect. Don’t you think?
Marben: Yes, reflection is good. Especially at the end of this very difficult year.
Antonia: This whole year has felt like a “short night” on so many levels.
Marben: Please tell me more for it seems like a very long night to me. 
Antonia: Let me pour myself a good cup of UChurch-styled wassail first. It’s been a short night because I’ve lost sleep on numerous occasions. It’s been a short night because I’ve always held onto hope. My father would say, “the sun is going to rise in the morning. That is one thing to count on.” I was always moving, even while being in the house. Constant movement. Tonight, is my first time being still. And I now feel the weight of the length of this year.
Marben: However God is with us regardless of the length of night.
Antonia: Really, because I’m feeling quite lonely and alone right about now.
Marben: I understand. God is with you.  God will comfort you in this tender time. 
Antonia: If God was a mug of wassail, I would give you a huge amen. For now, it’s a tender amen. How are you?
Marben: I am good. I long for human touch but filled with Godly touch.
Antonia: Please, say more.
Marben: During this pandemic I have been mostly alone. Spending my time on screens like this without human touch. 
Antonia: I so very much understand. Gosh, do I understand.
Marben: Do you miss human touch?
Antonia: I am touched by humanity through these screens daily. At the same time, there is nothing more affirming to me than some form of skin to skin contact. I miss hugs. I miss holding babies. I miss having a chest to lay on while listening to a heartbeat that will lull me to sleep.
Marben: So, on this shortest night how do you cope?
Antonia: (wassail…yaassss) Seriously, I listen to some Gregory Porter, Sarah Vaughn, Alexis Ffrench and think. I dream. I text you.
Marben: Music is a wonderful tonic. I value your text. They are a form of touch. I dream and like Joseph I find God in my dreams.
Antonia: What do you dream?
Marben: I dream about touch. I dream about travel. I dream about worshiping with people. I dream about hearing call and response.
Antonia: Those are beautiful dreams. I closed my eyes and imagined each one.
Marben: Dreaming on this long night is a good thing to do.  For my dreams are prayers.  
Antonia: Would you do something for me?
Marben: What would you like?
Antonia: Share a dream/prayer with me?
Marben: It would be my pleasure. Dear Father, we thank you for giving us the ability to dream like Joseph. To dream of the future you have given us.  A future free of a pandemic, a future filled with touch possibly and equality. The equality that we can only get from you.  An equality that does not care about our gender, that doesn’t care about our sexual orientation, doesn’t care about our race and all the other things that we humans make matters.  So I thank you for these lovely dreams with hope for more. In your son Jesus’ name I pray Amen.
Antonia: I felt all of that.
Marben: That is what God’s touch is all about.
Antonia: It is what is required. For all of us to touch and know what love is.
Marben: I believe so.
Antonia: Thank you for helping me to face this long night unafraid.
Marben: It’s been my pleasure and honor. Now it is time to dream.
Antonia: And feel touched.
Marben: Yes, the penetration of the touch. 
Antonia: It is what love requires and comforts my lonely soul.
Marben: By all means.
Antonia: Good night Beloved.
Marben: Good night Beloved. 

Reflection
I am grateful for friends who will go the distance with me. Because I know you my friends at University Church, I do have Marben’s permission to share our conversation. In this time of being alone, I want to remember to reach for the light. Isaiah 9:2 says, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined.” This promise is refreshing after 2020 and bracing for 2021. So much grief. Not just the grief of the loss of human life that has happened, but the loss of living freely, embracing, and basic consented touching are moments that will not ever be the same. I understand being so enthralled with the change of human life that the deaths of Botswana’s elephants en masse, snakes in sea foam, the harvesting of earth’s crystals for the pleasure of humans, and the endangered arctic bombas polaris takes a back seat.  It has been indeed a long year. I will not speak to if there is going to be an end in sight or predict when the night will break forth into day. I am confident that the “troubling will not last always.” (In my Grandma Ruth’s voice.) There is a unique calling in redefining what it means to have touchable moments and for me that is looking ahead into the light. In this longest night and year, I bask in the light that only this season can bring. The light of hope, joy, love and peace that binds us heart to heart will not leave us lonely.

Prayer
(Pause and reflect with each link)

To the Eternal One who creates all things, sustains the world and the universes, who is full of abundance and completeness and is transcendently imminent. I honor you. I recognize your existence, your superiority. I invite the warmth of my ancestors into my heart and I welcome the guidance, grace, love and positive resources their thoughts bring. To the God of Hagar, the God of Elizabeth, and to the God of my Grandmothers…thank you. I offer this prayer.

Let my light be the beacon in his night.
For the sometimes that’s craved, the sometimes after a long day
An even longer, stressful, year of ministry
Both near and far
The loud silence of pain
The mischief of grief
Collective losses
Have made me weak
Tears of disdain, tears of sorrow
Do not leave me without
An anxious waiting expecting not needing to borrow
To do that which love requires
Needs Time
For the time that is mine, the sun will surely rise
Rises to hope
Hope that quells the loneliness
I pray for a future free of that which gives me pause
I pray for the silence that resounds of peace
A perfected peace
An “It is Well” peace
Love requires joy in the waiting
A joy that is blissful
A joy that is as refreshing as streams from a mountain made with red clay.
Love requires touch
In a world where I can’t
This longest night
Love requires
Masked up
With washed hands
So much distance
For now, I dream hoping
God will meet me there
This longest night
Pillow held tight
Dreaming.
In the name of Jesus…amen and asé.