Blue Christmas 2020

The twilight turns from amethyst 

To deep and deeper blue, 

The lamp fills with a pale green glow 

The trees of the avenue. 

The old piano plays an air, 

Sedate and slow and gay; 

She bends upon the yellow keys, 

Her head inclines this way. 

Shy thought and grave wide eyes and hands 

That wander as they list — – 

The twilight turns to darker blue 

With lights of amethyst. 

‘The Twilight’

James Joyce

Today is Blue Christmas, the feast day for all those who do not feel able to, or cannot, feast.  In this year when all peoples of the world have had to alter their daily ways of being, there has been so much loss and grief, so much debt and unemployment, so much isolation and depression, so much abuse, so many whose wounds have not been tended.  Today is the feast day for me to remember them; to join with them in my largely house-bound, bed-bound, depression-bound state; to pray with and for them as much as myself.  

Joy is so hard to find when I mistake it for happiness.  But as I watch the fading light on this the shortest, darkest day of my year, I continue to choose joy as a way of being.  And the easiest way to re-orientate myself to joy is to pause, then name the things for which I am deeply grateful.  Joy comes when I count my blessings, because there are so many, an abundance of signs of care, signs of God-with-me in this, here and now.

As I watch the fading light, sitting still in the light that is not yet dark and the dark that has not yet let go of light, I feel I am in a hinterland, in a ’thin place’.  This is a place of silence before the Almighty, where I am invited to allow the Spirit to breath through me more freely.  In this in-between place of grief and gratitude, of poverty and praise, I pray Macrina Wiederkehr’s ‘twilight’ prayer from her Litany of the Hours:

Make of me a twilight: wake of colour, trail of glory.  In the evening of life transform me into a song of gratitude.  I want to be an evening star for those who have lost their way.  I want to be beauty at the end of each day.  On my pilgrimage through the day, write mystery stories with my life.  Out of my faithful attendance to the hours pour forth the incense of your praise.

  • Transform me into a song of gratitude.

(Seven Sacred Pauses (177-179))

On this threshold of becoming, immersed in the colours of the day turning to night, I listen to Martyn Joseph sing ‘Turn me Tender’:

It’s happened again, the colourless sky

Has dimmed me again and I’ve run out of why

Hank Williams is grieving, I’m scanning the Psalms

When Jesus was here they stilletoed his palms

And the pledge and the vow is ‘you find if you seek’

But what if you try and find nothing but bleak

So turn me tender again

Fold me into you

Turn me tender again

And mould me to new

Faith lost its promise

And bruised me deep blue

Turn me tender again

Through union with you

Let me lay with you now like that very first time

I’ve had rooms full of dollars but I’m down to a dime

Though there’s wonder and awe in the mane of a lion

There’s nowhere to go and I’m chapters from Zion

Yet you’re still my cryptic and cherishing prayer

With serenity kisses that soothe and repair

And laments have a purpose and laments have a cost

A requiem playing gathers the lost

It sometimes tastes sour, the sweetness of hope

When the blizzards are raging on this lover’s slope

Yet I don’t want to freeze inside or out

For it’s you that dissolves the cold walls of doubt

Turn Me Tender’

Music and Lyrics: Martyn Joseph / Stewart Henderson

dimmed hope. iPhone image.

Published by Kate Kennington Steer

writer, photographer and visual artist

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