The festive seasons are almost here … Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwaanza, Solstice. They can be a lonely, sad, “blue” time for those who are grieving the loss of loved ones or are feeling the loneliness of the Season when there is no one with whom they can share / visit / party / celebrate / mark this time of the year.
My concern for those who find it difficult to join in the festive celebrations
motivated me over the years as it did others
to develop some liturgies to address these concerns.
The two I created (one for congregations – below; one for individuals – next one) are both shared as separate Soulistry blogs <www.soulistry.com/blog> … the four blue candles image is the liturgy for individuals … the candles in the wreath image is the liturgy for congregations.
Feel free to use them, share them with accreditation – with my blessing and love. <june maffin>
An aside: While the Services have been used and developed over the years for people who relate to, is comfortable with, a Higher Power, the Divine, the Creator, God, they can easily be adapted.
Liturgy for Congregations: Preparation
* Place announcement in local paper.
* Send an Invitation (use special paper etc.) to immediate family members of those who have had funerals/memorial services in the church in the past two years (whether or not they’re parishioners) and to those who are dealing with loss of some kind (unemployed, on welfare, relationship ended, lost a pet, surgery that resulted in loss of a limb etc.) to come to the Service (liturgy). Here’s an idea of how the Invitation could read:
Suggested Invitation to the Blue Christmas Service for Congregations
The constant refrain about the happiness of the Christmas Season and about getting together with family and friends reminds many of what they have lost or have never had. The anguish of broken relationships … the insecurity of unemployment … the weariness of ill health … the pain of isolation … the gut-wrenching loss of a child, a spouse, a parent, a sibling … the loneliness of no longer having a beloved spouse to share each day … the loss of a dear family pet – all of these can contribute to a feeling of being along – of feeling ‘blue’ in the midst of the society around us which seems bent on ‘being happy’ and ‘celebrating.’ There are times when we hurt at Christmas and festive seasons and we can’t get into the festivities as others seem to be able to do.
It’s at such times that we need to make space and make time to acknowledge our sadness and concern.
We need to know that we are not alone.
For these reasons, (insert name and location of church) extends an invitation to you to join (insert date and time) in sharing and hearing prayers, Scripture and music that acknowledge that God’s presence is for those who mourn, for those who struggle – and that God’s Word comes to shine light into the darkness.
The brief service will be followed by a time for light refreshments and fellowship. Please accept this invitation to be with us – a time to move from feeling ‘blue’ to experiencing the wonder and hope of Christmas. No need to RSVP – our doors will be open to all who come, so please feel free to invite others to come with you, as your support, or if you know that they too, are finding that Christmas hurts.
The Blue Christmas Preparation
Ambience: At four in the afternoon, it’s dark outside and over the years, I’ve found this to be a good time to have the service. The sanctuary is in darkness with the exception of tiny white Christmas tree lights intertwined in Christmas greenery which are lit around the Sanctuary walls (as well as are the Altar candles) all in darkness except for the Jesse Tree (if used and if so, it’s covered in tiny blue Advent lights).
As people enter, they are greeted by gentle-voiced people who quietly welcome them and distribute bulletins (if they’re newcomers, hand out your ‘outreach’ leaflet too so they know something of the church they’ve come to). Quiet meditative music is played half an hour before the Service begins.
The Blue Christmas (aka “When Christmas Hurts”) Liturgy
ONE: Welcome to this Blue Christmas … a time when we can, with others, acknowledge the “blue” feelings we have at Christmas time, the reasons for them, and offer them to our Creator.
Soon we will experience the shortest day and the longest night of the year. This time has been called the “long dark night of the soul” when memories of past experiences and the pain of present experiences can become overwhelming. For some, Christmas Day is the most difficult. For others, Christmas Eve, or New Years Eve, or the beginning of another lonely New Year. In this service, we’ll have some singing appropriate to the Christmas Season, recognizing that this is not a season of joy for everyone. We will invite you to reflect on the pain, the loneliness, the sadness you may feel and offer it pain to the Holy One. May you find hope and comfort in knowing that you are not alone. This Service is for you to use and hopefully it will meet you where you are this season so join in the singing or simply sit in the peace of the moment.
Hymn: “O Little Town of Bethlehem” verses 1 & 2
Old Testament Reading of selected verses of Isaiah 40 “Comfort, comfort my people” says your God. “Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and call to her that the time of service is ended … Look up to the heavens! Who made the stars, if not the One who drills them like an army, calling each one by its own name? So mighty is God’s power and strength that not one fails to answer. Israel, why then do you complain that our God does not know your troubles or care if you suffer injustice? Our God, the everlasting God, the creator of the farthest parts of the each, never grows tired or weary. No one can fathom the depths of God’s understanding. God gives power to the faint and strength to the powerless. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.”
Music Ministry – time for silent reflection
Psalm Reading: Psalm 22 as follows
ONE: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, so far from the words of my groaning?
ALL: O MY GOD, I CRY BY DAY, BUT YOU DO NOT ANSWER. AND BY NIGHT, BUT I FIND NO REST.
ONE: In You, our ancestors trusted. They trusted and You delivered them.
ALL: IT WAS YOU WHO TOOK ME FROM THE WOMB. YOU WHO KEPT ME SAFE ON MY MOTHER’S BREAST. SINCE MY MOTHER BORE ME, YOU HAVE BEEN MY GOD.
ONE: Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
ALL: GOD DOES NOT DESPISE THE AFFLICTION OF THE AFFLICTED. GOD DOES NOT HIDE FROM ME. WHEN I CRY TO GOD, GOD HEARS ME. THANKS BE TO GOD!
Gospel reading: Matthew 11:28-29 reminding us that when burdens get piled on top of other burdens, the load can crush us. Jesus offers to help carry our burdens and responsibilities.
Music Ministry – time for silent reflection.
During this time, baskets with white stars and felt markers are passed to people. They are invited to print the names of those who have died or those with whom they are no longer in relationship or those they would like to particularly remember on the Christmas Star of Remembrance. (they will be picked up later in the service by the Ushers).
CANDLE LIGHTING LITANY OF REMEMBRANCE
ONE: We light this Advent candle to remember those persons who have been loved and lost. We pause to remember their name, their face, their voice. We give thanks for the memory that binds them to us this season which anticipates Christmas.
ALL: MAY GOD’S ETERNAL LOVE SURROUND THEM
Hymn: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” verse 1 followed by time of silent reflection
ONE: We light this second candle to redeem the pain of loss: the loss of relationships, the loss of jobs, the loss of health. As we gather up the pain of the past, we offer it to You, O God, asking that into our open hands, You will place the gift of peace.
ALL: REFRESH, RESTORE, RENEW US, O GOD, AND LEAD US INTO YOUR FUTURE.
Hymn: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” verse 2 is followed by time of silent reflection.
(NOTE: The names put on the Christmas Stars of Remembrance are collected at this time).
ONE: We light this third candle to remember ourselves this Christmas time. We pause and remember the past weeks, months and for some of us, years of down times. We remember the poignancy of memories, the grief, the sadness, the hurts, the pain of reflecting on our own mortality.
ALL: LET US REMEMBER THAT DAWN DEFEATS DARKNESS
Hymn: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” verse 3 is followed by time of silent reflection.
ONE: This fourth candle is lit to remember our faith and the gift of hope which God offers to us in the Christmas story. We remember that God who shares our life, promises us a place and time of no more pain and suffering.
ALL: LET US REMEMBER THE ONE WHO SHOWS THE WAY AND WHO GOES WITH US INTO OUR TOMORROWS.
Hymn: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” verse 4 is followed by time of silent reflection.
Invitation to pray:
“In the spirit of this season, let us now ask our God for what we need for ourselves as we participate in the Christmas Season as people coping with our loss, pain, suffering, loneliness, grief, sadness. In response to the words, “Loving God, hear our prayer”, you’re invited to respond with “And in your merciful love, answer.”
moment of silence before continuing
“We come to you in this Christmas Season, Holy One, with the pain growing inside us. As the nights have been growing longer, so has the darkness wrapped itself around our hearts. In this season of our longest nights, we offer to you the pain in our hearts, the traumas that some of us cannot put into words.
Loving God, hear our prayer. “And in your merciful love, answer.”
moment of silence before continuing
Compassionate God, there are those among us who are grieving over what might have been. A death or loss has changed our experience of Christmas. Once it was a special day for us too, but someone has died or moved away. Or we have lost a job, a dream, a goal, a cause. We find ourselves adrift, alone, lost.
Loving God, hear our prayer, “And in your merciful love, answer.”
moment of silence before continuing
Creator, the Christmas Season reminds us of all that used to be and cannot be anymore. The memories of what was, the fears of what may be, stifle us. All around us we hear the sounds of celebration. But all we experience is a sense of feeling blue. Please be near us this night. Loving God, hear our prayer. “And in your merciful love, answer.”
Music ministry – soft, quiet music is played in the background as people are invited to come forward to the front of the church where a large tub of sand is on a low lying table in front of the Altar. Inside are white candles and all are welcome to light a personal candle in memory of whatever loss they’re encountering …
Hymn: “Silent Night”
Hymn: “O Little Town of Bethlehem” verses 3 & 4.
Dismissal (“Go Thou in Peace”: sung)
NOTE: In the leaflet, there is a notice about refreshments after the Service.
Also, there is an invitation to pick up their Star of Remembrance at the Reception after the Service and hang it on an outdoor trees.
<The Stars of Remembrance are pre-cut, have a piece of thread/yarn/cord attached (for hanging on the tree) and are covered with clear Mac-Tac so inclement weather will not affect them).
Text and Photo © june maffin