The longest night is marked by a Blue Christmas

12.05.22 | Wellness and Missions

    By Neal Christie 

    In the northern hemisphere, many churches will offer a Blue Christmas Service on December 21 or 22. This marks the longest night of the year and the shortest day.

    These services provide space for people to hear not only about Jesus in the manger but about God in Christ who cares for them and who comes at a time of year when we may feel edged out and forgotten, despite the decorations, the cards, and the frenzy of preparation for Christmas.  Many in our congregations struggle with different kinds of grief and loss; perhaps a significant relationship or a loved one’s life has ended, or the people they love will be far away. Sickness has changed life as we lived and loss of health or work or change in home has taken away our independence or confidence or sense of security. Congregations may choose to hold a Blue Christmas liturgy marked by lighting candles and silent reflection to remember or they may offer an evening communion service, or place an empty chair in a prominent space to represent those who won’t be home for Christmas. A Blue Christmas is a time of turning. In the darkness we take time to receive and return to the gift of freedom as we struggle to show others God’s renewed presence in community.

    Blue Christmas Prayer or Call to Worship
    Offered by Laurie Tingley, chair of the Wellness and Missions Board

    (In a corporate worship setting: take blue strips of fabric and have each person in the congregation write out their losses/burdens/prayers. Place them in an empty manger as bedding for the baby, Jesus. In a home (or by  zoom) invite folks to prepare a strip or two of paper and write these things out to place them in their home Nativity sets.) 

    The blue that emerges from the brilliance of the sunrise on a clear spring morning - full of promise.
    The blue of the crystal waters of Bermuda - beautiful and vibrant. 

    The blue of the bluebird heralding happiness and good cheer.
    The pale blue often depicted clothing Mary, mother of Jesus - calm and serene.

    No. Not those blues.

    This blue feels leaden and cold.
    This blue is the color of loss and fear polluting the air we breathe.
    The blue of Blue Christmas is the dusky, grey-blue of lips deprived of oxygen and of a body with scant energy.  

    Lord, hear our cries.
    We may not feel your presence, Jesus, but help us trust that you will show up for us even here. 

    Isn’t this the story of your birth - the first blue Christmas?
    Until that time help us lay down our burdens, heaping them as straw for your bedding,
    So that upon your birth all may be transformed to your glory. Amen.

    Here are some suggestions to enter into the challenges of a Blue Christmas.

    Take care not to isolate yourself. Social isolation can lead to depression. And if you are on your own apart from family reaching out and finding support can be all the more difficult. Look for ways to enjoy social connections, even if you aren’t able to go home for the holidays. If you’re feeling lonely reach out, volunteer, seek support.

    Practice empathy. Empathy begins with good listening that validates someone’s story without judgment or interruption. Be available to hear what matters to those who trust you.

    Create new traditions and new rituals. In times of grief and transition, creating new rituals can help to ground us as we adjust to changed relationships or experiences of loss. Create a new ritual this Advent season.

    Breath, exercise, stretch. Regular physical activity helps to reduce lethargy and promotes cares for our bodies. Even a short walk each day might be enough to help keep the holiday blues at bay.

    It’s OK to say 'No’. The holidays often mean that there are more people making demands on your time and resources. Social events and generous hospitality are great but they can still feel like stressful obligations. Take care not to over-commit.

    Find time for yourself. Allow time for attentive prayer and contemplation, reading of Scripture and listening to music.

    Set realistic expectations. Keep your expectations and reachable.

    What is Blue Christmas? Blue Christmas Worship Planning--God of the dark and the light Blue Christmas/Longest Night Worship with Those Who Mourn Chuck Knows Church--A Blue Christmas

    Hymns and songs in The United Methodist Hymnal (UMH) and The Faith We Sing (TFWS)

    • 205 Canticle of Light and Darkness (UMH)
    • 211 O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (UMH)
    • 221 In the Bleak Midwinter (UMH)
    • 223 Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light (UMH)
    • 230 O Little Town of Bethlehem (UMH)
    • 452 My Faith Looks Up to Thee (UMH)
    • 461 For Those Who Grieve (prayer) (UMH)
    • 505 When Our Confidence Is Shaken (St. Thomas connection especially) (UMH)
    • 516 Canticle of Redemption (Psalm 130) (UMH)
    • 525 Well Understand It By and By (UMH)
    • 854 Psalm 139 (UMH)
    • 2199 Stay With Us (a wonderful simple healing song) (TFWS)
    • 2204 Light of the World (especially if Holy Communion is celebrated) (TFWS)

    How to Get Help

    Access Helpline Washington, DC with help to manage feelings of hopelessness, anger, grief, or stress. Call: 1-888-793-4357
    Access Maryland Crisis Hotline - Call: 1-800-422-0009
    Access West Virginia Emotional Hotline--Call 1-877-HELP304, text 877-435-7304

    Call the National Alliance of Mental Illness he Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), text "HelpLine" to 62640 or email us at  .