Coronavirus Message – December 21st

Links to “The Longest Night” and Advent Vespers, and some thoughts on the Winter Solstice


Christ is the Morning Star,

who, when the night of this world is past,

gives to his saints the promise of the light of life,

and opens everlasting day.

Venerable Bede, 8th century


Beloved community,


As you prepare for the celebration of ‘virtual worship’ on Christmas Eve, please know that two versions of the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service will be linked to congregational emails on Wednesday and Thursday this week.  There will be a traditional version much like the candlelight service we annually gather to offer in the Trinity sanctuary, and a second version with carols offered in a contemporary praise song format, a Rejoice Christmas Eve service.   Both versions will be linked to those Wednesday, December 23 and Thursday, December 24 emails and they will be accessible on Trinity’s YouTube channel.


Attached below is a meaningful service for the Winter Solstice entitled “The Longest Night.”  


Click here:


The Longest Night is a simple service of lament, petition and comfort that was developed to accompany those who struggle during the holiday season and to acknowledge the pain experienced by so many in our world. We remember that while the darkness is real, we journey together with hope, preparing our hearts for the light of Christ born among us.  Today is December 21, the Winter Solstice and the longest night in the Northern Hemisphere, and you are invited to enter the darkness of this night with a holy hope.


I also have the privilege of welcoming you to the fourth week of Advent and the opportunity to participate in our Advent Vespers service, the service of Holden Evening Prayer.  


To view the 27-minute video worship service for this fourth week of Advent, click here:


To access the worship bulletin for your participation in this Advent Vespers service, click here: Advent Vespers Virtual Service.


We are privileged to be hosted by Pastor Dan Schewe, Pastor Galen Knutson and cantors Deb and Bill DeWitt for this final midweek Advent worship service.  I also extend my thanks to Bryan Bredwell who crafted this beautiful video service for our devotional life together.


December 21 is the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the longest night and the shortest day of the year — and the official first day of winter. Solstice celebrations are some of the oldest holidays in human history, going back at least 30,000 years. Many ancient stone structures were built with the solstices in mind; Stonehenge, for example, is designed to receive the first rays of midwinter sun. Some of our ancient ancestors built bonfires on the winter solstice, in part, it is thought, to lure the sun back after so many months of waning light. Various festivals of light followed from those bonfires, all the way down to the custom today of decorating houses and trees with Christmas lights. The solstice is the pivot point, the beginning of the sun’s return: daylight on December 22 will last a couple of minutes longer than the daylight today.


Again, the words from English Benedictine monk Saint Bede some 1300 years ago:


Christ is the Morning Star,

who, when the night of this world is past,

gives to his saints the promise of the light of life,

and opens everlasting day.


The people of the Christian church appropriated the shortest day and longest night of the year to mark the birth of Christ the Morning Star, a light to shine in our darkness.  Christmas is our celebration of the birth of the light of the world.


Lutheran professor of liturgics and author Gordon Lathrop notes that our Christian liturgy is rich in the solstice themes of birth and the appearance of the light or the sun, interwoven with themes of our seeing and of the renewal of the earth.  The presence of Jesus is metaphorically the presence of the Light and of the Sun in the world.  Celebrating the birth of the light of the world, the Morning Star, in the darkest time of year is evocative.  “Just as with the world’s solstice,” Lathrop writes, “light is celebrated where light seems most threatened.  Solstice festivity means to encourage the return of the light.  Christian liturgy at solstice means to pray for the Light and to celebrate its presence . . .  The darkness does stand for our fears and the feast [of Christmas] does awaken – perhaps more than we would have them awakened – our hopes.”  (from Lathrop’s article “Words at the Solstice” in Dialog, vol. 21, Fall 1982)


“Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light.  The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”  The words of the beloved carol bring us on the Winter Solstice to the birth of the Morning Star, hope fulfilled, the light that truly conquers darkness.  


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.
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:2, 6


Blessings to you, O people of Trinity, and may the remaining days of our Advent journey to the stable in Bethlehem be meaningful for you and yours.  May you be safe, may you be well, and may you be held in love.


It remains a privilege to serve as one of your pastors.


Grace and peace,


Pastor Robert Linstrom



2700 Fulton St. E
Grand Rapids, MI 49506


Our Mission

Trinity Lutheran Church is a dynamic family called by God to nurture each other in our daily journeys of faith and to joyfully increase our response to all people in need, sharing God’s gifts of love and grace.