For many individuals, the Christmas holiday does not bring with it the peace and joy that is advertised on television and greeting cards. For those who have lost a loved one, are sick, or are dealing with a divorce or separation the holidays can be a challenging time. When you are constantly surrounded with the message that this is “the most wonderful time of the year” this reinforces the idea that sadness and anxiety are not welcome in the holiday festivities.
Because of the tragedies that occurred this past year, countless individuals are holding immense burdens, such as dealing with the loss of a home after it had been destroyed in the fires or hurricane, coping with the loss of a loved one’s life in a shooting incident or other natural disaster. Our nation, and our world have experienced much loss and tragedy in 2017, and there is a growing awareness of people “feeling blue.” In response, there is an increasing number of churches who are creating sacred spaces for people living through dark times, providing Blue Christmas services.
Blue Christmas is also called the “Longest Night” in the Western Christian Tradition. It is a day in the Advent season that marks the longest night of the year, which falls on or about Dec. 21, the Winter Solstice. These services have a much more somber, quiet feel that traditional Christmas worship services. Music, Scripture, meditations and sermons focus on the comforting presence of the Lord during hard times.
I think the idea of the church providing Blue Christmas services is a beautiful image of how the church is called to come alongside the members in the congregation, their brothers and sisters in Christ to love and support them. This is a powerful way we are to “Be the Church.” Walking with individuals who are grieving and encouraging them to seek Christ and see the light return in their lives. And providing an opportunity for people to hear about the God of love who comes to us in the midst of the mess and pain. A place to be transparent with oneself and with God, a place to be real with one’s struggles and questions
What a privilege for churches to offer a space where the reality of life, with its grief, pain, darkness and ugliness does not have to be left at the church door, but can sit at the foot of the altar with the light and hope, which I believe is the true spirit of Christmas.
A Prayer for anyone in need of a Blue Christmas this holiday season:
Oh God, be with us in our darkness. Make your face shine upon us and give us peace.
We pray for your Holy Spirit to be at work within us, may your Holy Spirit comfort us, may it sustain us, may it remind us of your constant love for us.
Comforting God, Prince of Peace, continue to wrap us in your presence. Be with us in our struggles, and when we get lost in the darkness, shine your light and help us find our way back to you.
Francesca Nevil is a sophomore student at Gonzaga University studying International Relations and Sociology with minors in Social Justice and Leadership. She is originally from Wenatchee and grew up in the valley engaging in all seasons of recreational activity with friends and family. She has a very strong faith life and holds her Christian identity at the center of who she believes and is. Meeting new people and engaging in different cultures brings her the most joy, hence she loves to travel. Nevil spent a year following high school graduation on a solo backpacking trip through Europe, then spent four months immersed in Costa Rican culture. Further, she thinks becoming culturally aware and religiously literate are of the utmost importance, so when she received a Wolff Fellow position partnering with SpokaneFāVS she said she was ecstatic.