In recent years there's been a new sort of Christmas observance gaining popularity. Many Episcopal congregation and churches of other denominations will be holding "Longest Night" or "Blue Christmas" events tonight, the longest night of the year. They are ways that the congregations are caring for the pastoral needs of those for whom this is not a happy time.
Christ and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church's observance is typical:
Called The Longest Night, this service, which is sometimes also referred to as a “Blue Christmas,” is a way of recognizing that in the midst of what is a celebratory time for many people, for others, the emotions elicited by this season are more difficult and complex.
There are many at this time of year who anguish over lost or broken relationships, or the prospect of spending the holidays without a special loved one. Others are wearied by lingering poor health or isolation, or are struggling with unemployment and lack of financial resources.
With simple hymns, prayers, readings and scripture, participants are invited to come together, be where they are, and feel what they feel, knowing that in the midst of their struggles, they are not alone.
It's becoming a common tradition - there are apparently thousands of groups holding such services. Google has more than 1500 services and news stories listed.
The Methodist Church website has an excellent resource here.
There's a lovely poem that helps explain the concept which begins:
This year will be nothing like
Those that came before.
There won't be carols
A banquet or gifts
Just vacant space
Where we once talked
Where we once laughed
The rest of the poem here.
Let us pray for all who are seeking solace this night, that they may know God's presence especially close at hand in the darkness and the silence.