Winter Solstice: Blessing for the Longest Night

By Jan Richardson


Longest Night © Jan L. Richardson

This week, in addition to preparing for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services, many congregations will offer a “Longest Night” or “Blue Christmas” service. Usually held on or near the Winter Solstice, this gathering provides a space for those who are having a difficult time during the holidays or simply need to acknowledge some pain or loss they are carrying in the midst of this season of celebration. For you who are offering or participating in such a service, and for all who struggle in this season, I wish you many blessings and pray for the presence of Christ our Light, who goes with us in the darkness and in the day.

Blessing for the Longest Night

All throughout these months
as the shadows
have lengthened,
this blessing has been
gathering itself,
making ready,
preparing for
this night.

It has practiced
walking in the dark,
traveling with
its eyes closed,
feeling its way
by memory
by touch
by the pull of the moon
even as it wanes.

So believe me
when I tell you
this blessing will
reach you
even if you
have not light enough
to read it;
it will find you
even though you cannot
see it coming.

You will know
the moment of its
arriving
by your release
of the breath
you have held
so long;
a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
a thinning
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
around you.

This blessing
does not mean
to take the night away
but it knows
its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots
along the path,
knows what it means
to travel
in the company
of a friend.

So when
this blessing comes,
take its hand.
Get up.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.

This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.

[Update: Thanks to everyone who has contacted me to ask for permission to use this blessing for a Longest Night/Blue Christmas service. If you'd like to use "Blessing for the Longest Night" in a service, I'd be delighted for you to do so; simply include this credit line:

© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com

No need to write me for permission, though I would be pleased to hear where you're using it. If you'd like to use the artwork, please scroll down to the end of this post for info. Many thanks!]

P.S. For previous reflections on the Winter Solstice, click the images or titles below:

Winter Solstice: The Moon Is Always Whole

Door 21: Blue Plate Special

Solstice: A Woman in Winter
(From my Sanctuary of Women blog)

[To use the "Longest Night" image, please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Advent Door possible. Thank you!]

51 Responses to “Winter Solstice: Blessing for the Longest Night”

  1. claire Says:

    What a beautiful blessing :-) Thank you.

  2. carolyn Says:

    Ditto. I’m in love with the collage as well ~ double thanks.

  3. Lori Leopold Says:

    Jan, this is so beautiful. I’m offering a Blue Christmas Service on Wednesday at the La Jolla United Methodist Church in San Diego. I would love to incorporate your words — they touch the deep places of heart and spirit! Thank you so much. Much peace to you this Advent. Hope you are so well!

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Lori! How wonderful to hear from you! Thanks so much. Many blessings as you offer the Blue Christmas service today, and thank you for incorporating the blessing. Peace to you!

  4. Shannon Eisert Says:

    Jan, thank you for this lovely poem. I am going to a Solstice Bonfire celebration and will take this to read to those who come. We are to bring some kind of burnable which we can instill the intention of what we want to let go of for this coming year. Blessings to you and Gary in your celebration and holding of this creative event of Christmas.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Shannon, thank you! It’s great to hear from you. I missed seeing you at the Guild this summer. Hopefully next time. Blessings on your Solstice celebration—sounds lovely! Thanks so much for your words and your spirit.

  5. Michelle Scott-Huffman Says:

    Beautiful! We’ll be using your blessing at our Longest Night/Blue Christmas Service this Wednesday in our brand new congregation, Table of Grace, in Jefferson City, MO. Thanks for all that you do!

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Thank you, Michelle! Oohhh, Table of Grace—what a wonderful name! I wish you and your new congregation many blessings as you share this service. Peace to you!

  6. Scott Finlay Says:

    Hi Jan, thanks again for a thoughtful and deeply expressive blesing amongst other bits. I live in Australia, and was wondering do you have a southern hemisphere version of this longest night blessing that is more midsummer, longest day for us. Christmas Day for us this year is looking at 32 degrees celsius and storms…hot and humid.
    Thanks again. Looking forward to next post.
    Scott Finlay (Rev)

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Hi, Scott—Many kind thanks for your words and for asking about a Longest Day blessing. I often think of folks in the southern hemisphere as the liturgical calendar unfolds. I don’t yet have a Longest Day blessing, but it’s on my list! I hope to work on it during the coming year.

      Thank you again, and blessings to you and yours as you celebrate the Summer Solstice and Christmas.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      P.S. Living in Florida, I can appreciate what it’s like to have a warm Christmas, as we sometimes do! Though usually not as high as 32 degrees celsius!

  7. Mary Ciccariello Says:

    Hi Jan,
    What a beautiful blessing.
    Sincerely, Mary

  8. Ann Hinz Says:

    thank you Jan for a quiet moment in the midst of this frenetic season! God bless you and Gary!

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Ann! Thanks so much for your words—lovely to hear from you on this Advent day. Blessings to you and Marv and all your family!

  9. Sandy Tracy Says:

    We are having a Blue Christmas service on Thursday at River of Hope ELCA Lutheran in Hutchinson, Minnesota. Not sure what it is planned, but it is a joint service combining a Lutheran and a Methodist congregation. Someone else is having a bonfire along with their service as a symbol to let go of the things that bring them pain. Thanks, Jan.

  10. Mary Ciccariello Says:

    Hi Jan,
    I would like to share this blessing with my widows & widowers group, my church family and friends and family on Facebook.
    Thank You, Mary

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Thank you, Mary! I’m grateful to you for sharing the blessing and hope the words will offer some peace along the way. Blessings to you.

  11. Shirley Jackson Says:

    Thanks to a friend from out of state I’ve just seen this site. Today is my birthday and historically it hasn’t been an easy time. Lots of dark and people too busy to help me celebrate. The poem helped me today.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Thank you, Shirley. You share a birthday with my dad! I’m glad the poem helped. I wish you many blessings on your birthday and all the days to come.

  12. Bruce Rippe Says:

    Jan, I am grateful for your Solstice Blessing and your willingness to allow many of us to share it graciously with others. Today I shared your blessing with those in attendance at the midweek devotional service at the hospital where I serve as the chaplain. Thank you. May your celebrations today and this night be filled with love and grace, Bruce

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Bruce, many kind thanks to you. Blessings in your ministry as a chaplain—I know that this season has a distinctive texture when experienced from the inside of a hospital. Peace to you and all whom you serve.

  13. Eric Funston Says:

    Jan – I’ll be using this blessing tonight at the close of our commemoration of St. Thomas the Apostle at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.

  14. Janice Mason Steeves Says:

    Hello Jan

    I have just stumbled across your beautiful poem. What a gift it is. I’m going tonight to a Solstice Celebration and because of your willingness to share it, I’m going to print off your poem and take it along with me tonight to share with friends. Many thanks for these beautiful words. Janice

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Janice, thanks so much for your words! I am enchanted by your website and delighted to know of your work. I feel much kinship with it.

      Blessings as you participate in the Solstice Celebration this evening, and many kind thanks for sharing the poem with friends.

      • Janice Mason Steeves Says:

        Good morning after the Solstice Jan. I read your beautiful poem last night at our Solstice Celebration. Thanks for being part of it. We all loved your poem and were touched by it.
        And thanks for your kind words about my art. I also feel that kinship with your work.

  15. amber andreasen Says:

    Oh, Jan. The art and the poem have moved me to tears tonight. So timely to my journey. Thank you for this gift beyond measure.

  16. sally Says:

    Thank you for this blessing Jan, I am blessed by it. I do struggle with this season, and this has deeply touched me.

  17. Dee Davidson Says:

    Jan, this blessing was posted by a member of my gifting circle. At the time I had a friend in transition and this blessing is one that I read to her as a transitional piece for her to hear. She passed on Christmas Eve morning and I plan to read it at her memorial. Thank You

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Dee, thank you so much for the beautiful gift of your words. I am sorry about the death of your friend and wish you and her community many blessings as you grieve and remember and celebrate her life. Thank you for letting me know how you shared the blessing with her; I am tremendously grateful for, and moved by, your thoughtfulness.

      Peace to you as we move into the new year! Thank you again.

  18. Jan Says:

    Thank you, Jan, for a wonderful blessing so generously shared. I have passed it on through a blog post to the professional helpers and family caregivers who follow my site and, more personally, to a dear friend and his wife who are sharing their last winter season together. Blessings on you and your healing work.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Jan, many kind thanks to you for your words and for sharing the blessing. I am grateful to you. I wish you many blessings as we enter the new year, and blessings also to your friend and his wife. Thank you again.

  19. Cheryl Smith Says:

    I will be using this poem at our Blue Christmas service on December 16, 2012 in Huntsville, TX. Your image of the blessing “gathering itself” has given me the image I needed for the sermon as well. Thanks for sharing your bounty with us all.

  20. Janice Whitelock Says:

    Thank you for permission to use your “Blessing for the Longest Night”. I am sharing it in a Blue Christmas service in a rural congregation in Saskatchewan Canada.

  21. Katherine Burgess Says:

    This is a wonderful poem. We do not have a longest night service, but I am going to save it in hope that it may happen some day. Thank you for permission to use it, and I will definitely credit you, should that day ever come.

  22. Donne Davis Says:

    Tonight on this cold, dark winter solstice of 2012, when doomsdayers have been predicting the end of the world, it is the end of the world for all the families who lost their precious loved ones at Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday.
    I was searching for a comforting blessing to send out to all the grieving families and came across your beautiful blessing.
    Thank you for sharing.

  23. Mary S. Says:

    Maybe this blessing is needed even more this year. Thanks. Merry Christmas to you.

  24. Fran Rossi Szpylczyn Says:

    Jan, this is so powerfully beautiful. You have been in my prayers and will remain there.

    While my church won’t be offering this kind of service, I am the person who composes the weekly prayer intentions for liturgy. I always consciously try to include prayers for those whom the holidays can be a challenge or struggle.

    God bless you.

  25. Phil Ewing Says:

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful blessing Jan. It’s an especially hard season for many I know this year.

  26. Julie Riley Says:

    Thank you for your permission to use your blessing. We are printing it as a bookmark to be included in the bulletin for our Blue Christmas Worship at First Presbyterian Church, Grapevine. We pray that you words will be a continued blessing for the dark nights still ahead.

  27. Nancy Says:

    Hello, I just found this posted on a friend’s page. I am a therapist, and I am working with a woman facing deep pain from her past. Sometimes she is almost without hope. Sometimes she fears there will be no dawn. I just sent her this poem. It speaks to me of hope that does not deny the darkness. Thank you for your work!

  28. Michele Corbeil Says:

    Thank you for this lovely, comforting blessing, I am service leading this Sunday at the First Unitarian Church in Hamilton Ontario and I will use this during our meditation for joys and concerns….

    Beautiful!

  29. Harvey Thurmer Says:

    I am a member of a group of 10 students of the Alexander Technique, and we have shared wonderful moments together over three years of training. Today we heard that one of our dear members lost his mother and I will be offering these words to him from the group. They are so perfect for this occasion, tragic loss in the midst of the joys of Christmas. Thank you for these wonderful words!

  30. Patricia Says:

    Though I do not know you, I pray for you as you walk the journey of grief. Widowed myself, I know it is a club none of us wishes to join.
    Blessings……

  31. Dorinda Dick Says:

    I always love Solstice, but have experienced it in a personal way. Your blessing was a reminder that I need to reach out and share it with others through words of inspiration and joy. Thank you for bringing your blessing to my experience as I want to plan to be more proactive next year in relating to others during this time.

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