Getting Ready For A Blue Christmas – for 2014

by Christine Sine

For many the Advent and Christmas seasons are anything but cheerful, even when we have not had to put up with non stop Christmas music for days before hand. For those who have lost loved ones, lost a job, or home or are struggling financially or with illness this season is anything but cheerful. So why do we try to cover our pain and grief with Yuletide cheer?

Many churches have begun to recognize that Festivals of Carols, celebrations of Christmas, and children’s pageants do not meet everyone’s needs. To fill this gap churches offer a Blue Christmas service, a Service of Solace or Longest Night. People who are not having a very merry Christmas and friends who support them are invited to come and sit with one another in a liturgy that speaks of the love of God for the grieving.

Fedelia’s Sisters has an excellent liturgy for a Blue Christmas service – When Christmas Hurts.

And Nathan Hill wrote this compelling post that I think makes a good focus for reflection.

re:Worship always has great resources and I think has the best list for Blue Christmas ideas of any site I have visited.

Lectionary Songs has some excellent suggestions on songs for such a service.

And another good list of Songs of Lament to consider.

Our church’s Longest Night service used the words of Mumford and Sons song After the Storm for the prayer after communion which I thought was very powerful.

After the Storm
And after the storm,
I run and run as the rains come
And I look up, I look up,
on my knees and out of luck,
I look up.
Night has always pushed up day
You must know life to see decay
But I won’t rot, I won’t rot
Not this mind and not this heart,
I won’t rot.
for those who hate their thighs and for those who have been abused.
for the bones that break and the cancer that spreads.
for blisters and splinters and hairs that split.
for asthma that seizes and for those we love who never get better.
for those who can’t get warm enough to sleep.
for those who wake early to find the dreams of beauty are not real.
for those whose coffee pots break when they need it most.
for hangovers and regrets and nights spent tossing.
Come and lament with me.
Let us attend.
For today and most days
All we bring are broken things.

Here is a beautiful adaptation of Psalm 88 that would also make a good addition to a Blue Christmas service

A couple of years ago, when grieving the still raw death of my mother, I wrote my own Blue Christmas poem.

On this long dark night we await the coming of Christ.
We long for the light of his presence,
With us and in us.
When our souls are deeply troubled,
and our hearts break with the weight of sorrow,
may our grief be seasoned with love,
and our sorrow be buoyed by hope.
In our times of God-forsakenness and estrangement,
May we gaze on the innocent One,
made perfect through suffering.
and see in him our vulnerable God,
who saves in weakness and pain.
May our suffering empty us of pride,
and lead us to true joy 
our only security,
in Christ the infinite depths of God’s grace.

There are many good resources around for all of us who want to plan a Blue Christmas service. Here are some great resources that could help if you want to plan or participate in a Blue Christmas service:

As usual Text of the Week is a great place to start. (Scroll down the Advent resources until you get to Blue Christmas).

I also like this simple but powerful Blue Christmas Service  and the ideas for how to use it 

Here is another good outline for a Blue Christmas service  from Ministry Matters.

And from Discipleship Ministries

Let me end with this meaningful prayer by Ted Loder which appears in Guerrillas of Grace,

O God of all seasons and senses,
grant us the sense of your timing
to submit gracefully and rejoice quietly in the turn of the seasons.

In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach us the lessons of endings;
children growing, friends leaving, loved ones dying,
grieving over,
grudges over,
blaming over,
excuses over.

O God, grant us a sense of your timing.
In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach us the lessons of beginnings;
that such waitings and endings may be the starting place,
a planting of seeds which bring to birth what is ready to be born—
something right and just and different,
a new song, a deeper relationship, a fuller love—
in the fullness of your time.

O God, grant us the sense of your timing.

This is part of a series on Christmas/Advent resources. 

Advent Activities for Families and Kids for 2015

Advent Candle Light Liturgy

Join Our Advent Photo Challenge

Celebrate With Simplicity This Christmas

Preparing for a Blue Christmas – New Ideas for 2015

Helping Kids Give Back This Christmas

Choosing Your Scripture Readings for the Coming Year

Advent/Christmas Music from a Rich Array of Traditions

What On Earth Are The O Antiphons

Advent Resources from MSA

Getting ready for a Blue Christmas

Getting Ready for Advent/Christmas Worship Resources for the Season

 Who Will You Invite to the Manger?

Helping Kids Give Back This Christmas

Advent Activities for Families and Kids

Advent Is Coming What Scriptures Will You Read

Some Thoughts on Christmas Music

What On Earth Are The O Antiphons

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Joan November 8, 2014 - 1:20 am

Thank you for all the inspirational thoughts and suggestions Christine.It’s a little harder to have the dark and light images here in NZ so close to our longest day! We have decided to go with the title “Remembered at Christmas” to cover the many reasons that people will not find this Christmas the same as others in the past. However despite the summer evening light most people still do like to light a candle and spend time in prayer or contemplation as each takes a turn. Interest declined a few years ago but we re-thought through the reason for offering this service and decided that even if three or four gather it’s important that we pray on behalf of those who will find Christmas hard this year. Last year 19 came, for as many different reasons and it was a very moving time.
May the light of hope brighten every dark corner.

Christine Sine November 8, 2014 - 7:38 am

Thanks Joan, I always encourage people to get creative for the context in which they live and I am glad to see you doing that. One of the things we do at our church for All Saints Day is to give people a change to write the names of loved ones who have died onto white ribbons which are then hung around the church for the service. I think something like this would be good for a Blue Christmas service too. The ribbons could also be left up throughout the Christmas season as a reminder that those who have gone before are always with us throughout the season of celebration


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