A BLUE CHRISTMAS SERVICE: If You’re Hurting at Christmas
The concept of a Blue Christmas Service might be new for you. The idea behind the services is to provide a quiet, contemplative service as an alternative to the more traditional gatherings as a way to care for those who are sad or struggling whilst those around them are caught up in celebrating. In the northern hemisphere they are also known as Longest Night Services and tend therefore to be held around 21–22 December.
There could be any number of people who are struggling with different kinds of pain and loss at the moment and a service of this kind might appeal. Services like this provide an opportunity for people to hear not about the baby in the manger, who can be dismissed as irrelevant, but about the God of love who comes to us in the midst of the mess and pain we know in our own everyday lives and the lives of those around us.
A SERVICE ORDER
Tonight we welcome you (even Online) to our Blue Christmas service, a service that has been put together especially for those of us who are not feeling particularly merry and bright just now.
This is somewhere to come (even Online) if, despite all the decorations, the cards, the music playing in the shops, the concerts and parties (even Online), and all the advertising, you don’t really feel very much like celebrating. Somewhere to come if the idea that a Merry Little Christmas is all you need for your troubles to be miles away has a decidedly hollow ring to it.
We hope that you’ll find this a safe space to be transparent with yourself and with God, a safe place to admit that maybe you’re not ok at the moment, that maybe what you’re really feeling is sad, discouraged, or even angry. A place for you to be real with your struggles and your questions.
Those of us feeling a little blue at this time of year can feel edged out and forgotten as everyone else seems caught up in the mad frenzy of their own preparations and celebrations. We hope that as you look around you tonight (even Online), and as you think about the Christmas message, you’ll find comfort and hope in knowing that you are not alone.
Here there’ll be a variety of music to listen to but we won’t sing, there’ll be a Bible reading, a short message. We’ll light some candles and spend time in prayer and silent reflection. You may want to have ready some candles and even an empty chair.
God of mercy and love, we have come, bringing our pain, our sorrow and our confusion to this safe space, this time apart, tonight. Would you meet us in our darkness, and give us freedom to struggle together as we seek your presence. We ask for strength for today, courage for tomorrow and peace for the past. Amen.
Light a central candle
In the beginning was the Word. The Word was close beside God, and the Word was God. In the beginning, he was close beside God. All things came into existence through him; not one thing that exists came into existence without him. Life was in him and this life was the light of the human race. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:1-5
The empty chair
This empty chair represents those who won’t be home for Christmas. Place it at a distance and in a place or position right for you.
Perhaps a relationship has ended, perhaps the people we love will be far away, perhaps sickness or death has changed how things used to be…
Light the first outer candle
We light this candle to remember those we have loved and lost.
We pause to remember their names, their faces, their voices and the memories of them that we hold in our hearts.
We thank God for them and ask for his comfort, and when we are feeling overcome with sadness, we ask for the peace that is greater than we can ever understand.
Lord hear our prayer.
Light the second outer candle
The empty chair also represents the pain and sadness that can come from other events that enter our lives, uninvited and unwanted – leaving us reeling in pain and shock, unable to shake the feeling that it wasn’t supposed to be like that.
So we light this candle to represent other losses that we find ourselves faced with.
The loss of health,
the loss of confidence or security,
plans that did not work out,
or hopes that ended in despair.
We pause now for you to tell the God who longs to bind up those who are broken-hearted, about some of the losses that you are feeling at this time.
Lord hear our prayer.
Light the third outer candle
This candle represents our courage: the courage to face our sadness, to share our feelings with others, our doubts and fears, our anger, frustration or depression, and to dare to hope in the depths of our pain.
We pause now for you to tell the God who longs to take you by the hand and says to you, do not fear, I will help you, about some areas where you need help in finding courage.
Lord hear our prayer.
Light the fourth outer candle
We light this final candle to remember those who have supported us in our pain.
We pause to remember the prayers, the words of comfort and support, the acts of kindness from family and friends and those who stood with us in our time of need.
We thank you God for sending others to remind us that we are never alone. And we thank you for sending your son, Jesus. Amen.
Focus on the central candle
Standing here in the centre of the candles that represent some of life’s joy and pain, this central candle represents Jesus who has come to be Immanuel, God with us, in the midst of it all.
Jesus who was born as a helpless baby – and who hears our cries, and understands how weak and helpless we can feel.
Jesus the good shepherd, who knows our hearts and offers us healing and hope in the midst of our suffering. Who came to help us understand just how much God loves us. And who lived and died to restore our relationship with our heavenly father.
Jesus who will reign as king over God’s new creation, where there will be no more sickness or death or crying or pain for all eternity. And who has given us his Holy Spirit to help, comfort and guide us as we seek to follow him here on earth and wait for his glorious return. Whilst the music is playing can I invite you just to sit and rest in God’s presence.
Music to listen to
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, all of us who are gathered here tonight, may your Holy Spirit comfort us, may it sustain us, may it remind us of your constant love for us.
We trust this time of listening to you and ask you to open our hearts and our minds to whatever it is that we need to hear from you tonight. Amen.
In a moment we are going to play a song which expresses the resolve to reach out and take hold of God’s promise to be there with us in the midst of life’s storms.
Whilst the music is playing you’re invited, if you’d like to do so, to light any further candles to represent whatever pain and loss you’re experiencing most strongly tonight, and to light it from the candle in the centre that represents Jesus, as a way of saying thank you to him for being the light in our darkness and then to plant the candle down in the sand in this tray as you ask for God’s help to keep on trusting him in the middle of whatever’s going on around you.
O COME O COME EMMANUEL
Drawing to a Close
In a moment you will see the invitation to say the Twenty-Third Psalm and finish with a prayer. Then we’ll play one final piece of music and after that it will be quiet. Please feel free to stay longer in the space and in the moment if you’d like to.
Psalm 23 has brought comfort to so many people over the years, let’s say it now drawing strength from the fact that others too are saying it– if you know a different version to the one below, just say the one that means the most to you.
The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows, he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths, bringing honour to his name.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley I will not be afraid for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.
You honour me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life and
I will live in the house of the Lord forever.
A Closing Prayer
Comforting God, as we leave this place or space would you 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. Amen.