Blue Christmas? Hope this Helps.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, December 22, 2014


Blue Christmas? Hope this Helps.

We had a Blue Christmas service tonight. In the freezing rain, and muck, and generally nasty stuff. Appropriate, indeed, for a service meant for people who are having a difficult time with the holidays. (Although the nasty weather probably convinced some people to stay at home instead of venturing out.)

Chaplain Sarah and I led the service. Even though we were few, gathered in the St. Luke’s Church sanctuary, I hope God’s presence made itself felt in a special way this evening.

When I was in my first unit of chaplain internship, Father Romy served as the chaplain supervisor. (A superb supervisor, by the way!) He didn’t always say this, but a common response from him was, “I hope that was helpful.” And—that would usually be the capper on top of some penetrating insight that he offered to the group of interns.

At the service tonight, we read a Psalm that is not typically read. Psalm 77, a psalm that can be viewed as disgruntled, almost despairing, in selected verses. We read Eugene Peterson’s modern translation from The Message, which gave the psalm a particularly poignant angle. The sharing time in the service became one of the high points, as well. And the candle-lighting at the end? All in all, a time to be sad together, to grieve together, to be quiet—together.

Just so, I hope and pray that the service tonight (Sarah’s offering and my offering) was helpful, encouraging, and a comfort to those who were there. God, in Your mercy, be with all those who grieve, who cry, who are lonely or depressed tonight.


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In Which I Am Planning to Be of Service—at a Service

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Blue Christmas tree

In Which I Am Planning to Be of Service—at a Service

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”—or, is it? Christmas can be difficult for many people, for many reasons. I did a good deal of planning today. Preparing the order of service for a very special, alternative Christmas service next Monday night.

I don’t know whether you might have heard of a “Blue Christmas” service. Perhaps by another name? The Longest Night service? A service held either on or close to the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. A service for people for whom Christmas is a difficult time.

The custom of holding Blue Christmas services has been growing over the past ten years. The name refers to the loneliness, sadness and grieving people sometimes experience during the holiday season. Many people consider the holidays to be such a “happy, joyous time.” However, holiday and family gatherings can be negative and difficult. This Blue Christmas service is a time and place where sad, grieving, lonely people can join together to share their emotions with people who feel the same way.

This will be a subdued Blue Christmas service, on Monday, Dec. 22 with quiet music, reflective readings, a brief time for silent contemplation, community candle-lighting, and a reflection from me (as one of the service leaders). My good friend Chaplain Sarah is going to co-lead this service with me. (Thank you so much, Sarah!)

I know very well that there have been years when I have dreaded the holidays. When this whole season of the year was just a time to be endured, a time to grieve, a time to hold on by my fingernails. Yes, I have anxious, fearful, recurring memories of those holiday seasons. (And, yes. There were more than one holiday season when I felt this way.)

So, I want to offer this Blue Christmas service as an opportunity for those among us who are having a difficult time. Or, who have recently been through something negative and traumatic. Or, who are especially feeling the loss of someone dear at this time of the year. This is a time and place—a space where people can gather together in a refuge from the festivities and “jollity” of the season. And, a place where such sad, anxious, negative, grieving feelings can be brought out into the open. God willing, validated, and expressed.

“The most wonderful time of the year?” For some people? No, not really. Sorry. Maybe next year.

(This Blue Christmas service will be held at St. Luke’s Christian Community Church on Monday, Dec. 22 at 7:00 pm. The church is located at 9233 Shermer in Morton Grove, Illinois, and is fully handicapped accessible. Just in case this information is helpful to anyone. God’s gentle blessings at this sometimes-difficult time of the year.)


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