‘Blue Christmas’ Services Offer Refuge From Holiday Cheer
Dec. 21 is the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. And across the country, some churches are offering “Blue Christmas” services — setting aside the tinsel and other trappings for a night, to acknowledge the darkness in life.
The format of Blue Christmas services vary church to church. But the common theme is dropping the usual merry and bright, and recognizing the hard stuff. People offer prayers and light candles, and open up to the sadness they’re carrying. About loss, relationships, addiction.
people write down things they’re struggling with. And then everyone’s invited to grab some of these notes — literally lifting someone else’s burden — and hang them on the church garland.
“It’s not putting our sorrow on display. “It is inviting us to remember that it’s all part of the experience.”
At Portland’s First Congregational United Church of Christ, Rev. Dr. Janet Parker welcomed a small group for a service in mid-December, which they called “Out of the Darkness.”
In a very dark worship space, participants sang hymns, walked a labyrinth, journaled and prayed both alone and together. They also lit candles — some dedicating the candle’s light to a particular missed or suffering person by saying their name aloud, others doing so silently.
“At its deepest level, I think the Christmas gospels tell the story of God’s entrance into this world from the underside. And when all of us gather there together, and the marginalized are in the center — that’s the promise of Christmas.”