Blue Christmas

By Ann Fontaine

Cries of “Merry Christmas!” and non-stop caroling contrast with the feelings of many people at this time of year. For those suffering from the recent or impending death of loved ones and for those whose families are in crisis, it can be a very isolated and dreary time. Every greeting and every song reminds the grief-stricken of how unhappy life is at this moment.

Many churches have begun to recognize that Festivals of Lessons and Carols, celebrations of Christmas, and children’s pageants do not meet everyone’s needs. To fill this gap churches offer a Blue Christmas service, a Service of Solace or Longest Night. People who are not having a very merry Christmas and friends who support them are invited to come and sit with one another in a liturgy that speaks of the love of God for the grieving.

Many of the worshipers who gathered for our Service of Solace at St. John’s in Jackson Hole, Wyoming during the week before Christmas did not have a church home. Christmas vacationers who came to ski or snowmobile were attracted to the silence and space apart from their days on the mountain. We offered a variety of music and silence interspersed with readings from Scripture and prayers of solace and hope. Each person was encouraged to bring readings to share, photos or objects of remembrance

Sitting together in the warm log church in the midst of the deep star spangled dark of the Rocky Mountains we gained a greater knowledge of the One who loves us in sorrow and joy. We learned that even strangers can share life and love. We discovered we are not alone.

A closing prayer from Ted Loder, Guerillas of Grace:

O God of all seasons and senses, grant us the sense of your timing to submit gracefully and rejoice quietly in the turn of the seasons.

In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach us the lessons of endings;
children growing, friends leaving, loved ones dying,
grieving over,
grudges over,
blaming over,
excuses over.

O God, grant us a sense of your timing.
In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach us the lessons of beginnings;
that such waitings and endings may be the starting place,
a planting of seeds which bring to birth what is ready to be born—
something right and just and different,
a new song, a deeper relationship, a fuller love—
in the fullness of your time.

O God, grant us the sense of your timing.

Liturgies for a Service of Solace, Longest Night or Blue Christmas can be found at The Text This Week.

Compassionate Friends is a resource for those whose children (of any age) have died.

Many hospice organizations offer bereavement groups at all times of the year.

The Rev. Ann Fontaine, Diocese of Wyoming, keeps the blogs Green Lent and what the tide brings in. She is the author of Streams of Mercy: a meditative commentary on the Bible.

Comments (14)

My daughter sent along this news article about the Blue Christmas service where she played organ, here

I think the year my maternal grandmother died on 23 December qualifies for a Blue Christmas. I was 28 and ended up handling most of the funeral arrangements. There was something pretty weird going to the florist on the 23rd to order a casket arrangement while everyone else was running around getting their Christmas flowers. We went to the midnight service, my mother and I, but our spirits weren't exactly in it. I can tap into the conflicting emotions of the moment when walking with others going through their Blue Christmas.

I think this is a marvelous idea, and I'm glad to see it catching on around the church. We don't have one in our parish, but I'd definitely be participating this year if we did.
Thanks, Ann, for giving Blue Christmas a bit more visibility, and for acknowledging the ambivalent feelings some of us have around this time of year.

Last year, the first Christmas after my son and his wife separated, we would have appreciated a Blue Christmas service.

June Butler

Blue Christmas is a really excellent idea for those who don't feel the Christmas spirit because of something tragic happened to them.

In a sense, I could use one because of the amount of hurt I had experienced this year. The latest of which would be the fiasco that happened afterwards when the word was leaked about me leaving St. Gabriel's in Monterey Park, CA (my former church) for Holy Trinity in Covina, CA. I was seeking a peaceful end by approaching the rector in a peaceful and straightforward manner. But, apparently, some people took it the wrong way and now the matter was out of my control. I was very upset by it. I haven't lose trust in clergies. But from this incident, I am very hesitant to go back to serve the Chinese ministry in any prominent role again.

A Blue Christmas also is a good idea for those suffering from clinical depression which hasn't responded to treatment.

Peace and Love of the Season to all

Alice MacArthur

We held our first Blue Christmas service on Tuesday at Church of the Redeemer in Pittsburgh. Though we were late getting out notices we still had people from outside the parish show up. Everyone there was missing someone or Christmas was connected with the death of someone close. The service was a wonderfully healing time.

JR Gunderson

Just last Sunday after church, we decided we needed a Blue Christmas liturgy. We held it tonight, the longest night of the year. We only advertised within the parish, and it was snowy and bitterly cold, so we were pleased with the 5 worshipers who showed up. We shared a cup of coffee afterwards and talked. We agreed it was an intimate and reassuring service, and we will offer it again.

ELO today has a story and roundup of Blue Christmas resources,

I've just visited my father in hospice in another state.
It was a bittersweet visit, seeing him so frail with advanced dementia. It was our last encounter before the Lord calls him home. I only wish my church had a blue Christmas service to help me get through this holiday season.

We generally require people to sign their full names to their comments on the Cafe, but we are waiving that policy on this thread because several first time commneters have left us moving words.

I led a "Blue Christmas" service at my parish on Thurs. evening, but I re-titled it. I have posted some reflections on the evening on my blog:

We called ours a Service of Solace.

St David's Episcopal Church in San Diego CA is having a Blue Christmas ecumenical service on Dec 23 at 6pm. We have never had one before - it's the idea of our new priest, the Rev Suzane Watson. There will be 4 speakers who will speak for 3-5 minutes on a situation - mental illness in the family, the suicide of a spouse, someone who has been incarcerated and a recovering alcoholic - and where they found hope in each situation. It fills a real need I think!

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