News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 22, 2012

Service reaches out to those with feelings of loss at the holidays

Brian Boyce
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — For many people, the days leading up to Christmas are among the year’s longest.

That was on her mind, as Rev. Dawn Carlson welcomed those in grief to a “Service for the Longest Night” inside the First Congregational Church off Ohio and Fifth streets Friday evening. In its second year at the church, Carlson explained the program’s name is symbolic on multiple levels as it falls on what is in fact the day with the least hours of sunlight. It’s also a part of the Christmas holiday season, which for many people, is a reminder of loved ones lost.

“For some, Christmas Day is the most difficult. For others, it is Christmas Eve, or the start of a new year,” she said from the altar.

As part of the program, Carlson explained to participants that God encourages people’s approach in times of distress and burden.

“It’s rest for our souls, and how we long for that rest,” she said.

Stones symbolic of people in participants’ lives were contained in a bowl and offered up as part of prayer amid candles.

Carlson reminded the audience that the original Christmas Day wasn’t a particularly joyous one. The story of Christmas, she said, is the story of a teenage mother and her husband. The birth of Jesus occurred in a dirty manger, and the family members were soon refugees in Egypt after authorities ordered the death of all male babies born at that time.

“That’s not the most wonderful time of the year,” she said, adding that Joseph was publicly disgraced as a result of his wife’s pregnancy.

The story of the manger, she said, can’t be fully appreciated without knowing that it’s told in the shadow of a cross. But comfort can be found at the altar, she observed.

“God meets us exactly where we are and He loves us without regard to our acts,” she said.

Participant and lifelong member Libby Wyrick was among those who stayed after the service to reflect from the pew. While participants remained silent in terms of the cause of their visit, they shared common prayers and song.

“I think it was just beautiful and very uplifting,” she said.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or