Does Your Church Hold a Blue Christmas Service? 

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We want to know: Does your church (or a church in your community) hold a Blue Christmas Service? 

"What's that?" you ask. Believe it or not, for many people the Christmas holidays are anything but merry and bright. Many are dealing with loss: the loss of a loved one, of a marriage, of a job, or of their health. Others struggle throughout the year with loneliness, depression, anxiety, and more. 

The Deacon's Mandate includes the following..."Be compassionate to those in need and treat them with dignity and respect; hold in trust all sensitive matters confided to you. Encourage with words that create hope in hearts and with deeds that bring joy into lives."

Many churches are creating sacred space for people living through these dark times by adding services that are reflective, accept people where they really are, and hold out healing and hope. 

Does your church have a special worship service like this? Have you heard of another one in your city? 

We'd love to hear about it! Leave a comment below or email Erin, DMC's Communications Coordinator, at eknight@crcna.org. You can also share on our Facebook page. 

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If you'd like to learn more or find resources on Blue Christmas, Longest Night services, or lament during Advent consider these articles and resources from Reformed Worship published by Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church. 

https://www.reformedworship.org/article/september-2017/longest-night

https://www.reformedworship.org/article/september-1997/time-weep-during-...

https://www.reformedworship.org/article/september-2010/real-joy-genuine-...

Community Builder

Thank you for sharing these resources Joyce! We've already had a church inquire about these services and ask for more information so we'll be sure to send this on to them.

Messiah CRC in Hudsonville, MI has a service we call "Light in the Wilderness" which is more reflective on why exactly Jesus came into the world in the first place.  Not because everything was merry and bright, but because "Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt its worth."  We used to call it a Blue Christmas service, but that got too many people thinking of Elvis and distracted them from the focus of the service.  Every year that we've done the service, different people find it meaningful.  This will be our fourth year having the service and it will be at 5:30 this Sunday night.

Participant

Grace Community CRC in Oak Lawn, IL will hold a Blue Christmas service this coming Sunday morning.  We have tried having them on Sunday late afternoon or evening, or a weeknight, but didn't have very many people attend.  Our whole sermon series this year is "When Advent Doesn't Feel Like Christmas" (RW45), so we thought the Blue Christmas service fit well with the theme.  We are not using the RW suggested service this week. Instead, below is what our service will look like.  There are a couple of opportunities for extra participation.  We will give each person a nametag to wear during the service. On that nametag, they are to write the name of someone they are missing this Advent, or the situation they are feeling weighed down by (loss of job, loss of health, etc.)  We will also have star shaped post-it notes in the pews, and later in the service we will ask the congregants to write on a star their concerns for themselves or others. At the end of the service they will "let go" of these concerns by putting them on large sheets of paper on the side walls of our sanctuary.

 

Prelude                                                                                              Diane Ritzema

Welcome –explain name tags

We gather in a spirit of somber remembrance.  While the rest of the world seems to celebrating the joyous occasion, we come to manger with feelings of loneliness and loss, and our heart cries out help me be strong, help me.   I invite each of you this morning not to hide those feelings, but embrace them, realizing that they may bring you closer to the real Christmas story.

 

This morning we remember the true story helpless babe born into a world that was struggling, a world that was questioning where was God, and world crying out why?  The helpless babe born in cold stone room, to a family that was poor, tired, and frightened.   The helpless babe who would change all this for the world.

 

We Gather in God’s Presence

 

(all) Lord, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry.  I am overwhelmed with troubles, and my life draws near to death.  I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength. (Psalm 88:1-4)

           

Christ Candle is Lit

 

(Leader) The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned … For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. (Isaiah 9:2 & 6-7)

 

Song: Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus        PsH 329

God’s Greeting/Mutual Greetings

 

We Remember and Seek Comfort

 

Psalm 22

(All read the boldface verses together.)

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?

O my God, I cry by day but you do not answer,

and by night, but I find no rest.

In you, our ancestors trusted. They trusted and you delivered them.

It was you who brought me from the womb,

you who kept me safe on my mother's breast.

Since my mother bore me, you have been my God.

Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.

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.

 

                        Comfort, Comfort Now My People  PsH 194

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
   He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
   he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

 

Memory Stars – (In benches)

You are invited to write on each star your concerns for others or your own concerns.

 

Candle Lighting: A Litany of Remembrance

First Candle: Persons who have been loved and lost

We light the first Advent candle and remember those persons who have been loved and lost.  We pause to remember their names, their faces, their voices.  We give thanks for the memory that binds them to us in this season.

Lord, surround us all with your eternal love. 

  

All sing: O come, O Come, Immanuel, and ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear. 

Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Immanuel shall come to you, O Israel.

 

      (silence)

 

Word of comfort: Psalm 103:13, 17

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,

he remembers that we are dust.

But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children

 

Second Candle: Pain of Loss

We light a second candle mindful of the pain of loss: the loss of relationships, the loss of jobs, the loss of health, the loss of joy.  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.

Hold, help, heal us, O God.

 

All sing: O come, O Bright and Morning Star, and bring us comfort from afar!

Dispel the shadows of the night.  And turn our darkness into light.

Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Immanuel shall come to you, O Israel.

 

(silence)

 

Word of Comfort: Psalm 139:11-12 (NLT)

I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—
but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.

 

Third Candle: Time of Loss

We light a third candle to remember the time of our loss.  We pause and remember the past weeks, months and, for some of us, years of difficult days and lonely nights.  We remember time’s passing that has seemed heavy and slow; we remember time’s passing that has seems to sweep us and our memories away. 

Our times are in your hand, O LORD.  Remember us and bless us.

 

All sing: O come, O Key of David, come and open wide our heavenly home

Make safe for us the heavenward road and bar the way to death’s abode.

Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Immanuel shall come to you, O Israel.

 

(silence)

 

Word of Comfort: Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

 

Fourth Candle: Remember others suffering with us

We light a fourth candle to remember all who have shared in our sorrow.   We thank you for their compassion, for their presence with us in times when our hurt went deeper than words could express.  We remember that you, Lord, came to sympathize with our weakness and to carry our sorrows. 

We thank you for those who held us and pointed to your light.

 

All sing: O come, O King of Nations, bind in one the hearts of all mankind.

Bid all our sad divisions cease and be yourself our King of Peace.

Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Immanuel shall come to you, O Israel.

 

(silence)

 

Word of Comfort: Matthew 5:4 and 7

Blessed are those who mourn, for the will be comforted. 

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

 

 

We Hear God’s Word

Scripture: Luke 3:1-6

Message: When Advent Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas: Travel God’s Highway

 

We Respond in Hope

                        Hark, the Glad Sound! The Savior Comes  PsH 335 v. 1,3

 

                        He Who is Mighty

 

Prayer of Hope  Prayers of the People – Pastor Kooy

 

This season reminds us of what used to be but is no more.  Memories of what was, and the fear of what may be, keep us from the joy of today.  All around are the sounds of celebration, but joy eludes us.  Be near us today.

Loving God, hear our prayer,

     and in your merciful love, answer.

 

In this season of Advent waiting, we bring you those sorrows and longings too deep for words.  Hear the groans of our heart and tend us with your comfort and grace.

Loving God, hear our prayer,

     and in your merciful love, answer.

 

In the silence, we bring you our own words of need, our own words of hope. 

(pause)

 

We pray for the needs of your world.

            (Pastor Kooy prays.  Concluding with … )

 

Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives rest in you.   In the quietness of this hour, may your peace enfold us and all dear to us, and all who have no peace.  Keep us in the truth that the night is nearly over; the day is almost here.  We look expectantly to a new day, to new joys. 

Loving God, hear our prayer,

     and in your mercy, answer.  Amen

 

Word of Hope (Psalm 33:22 and Isaiah 40:31 and Romans 15:13)May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you. those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

Offering  -- Mary, Did You Know                Pedro Kialanda

We Depart in Peace

 

*Song of Peace: Silent Night

 

While we sing Silent Night,

all who wish are welcome to place their Memory Stars on a banner on the side walls.

 

* Benediction: 1 Peter 5:10-11

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.

 

Depart in silence

Admin

I had lunch with my Grandma a couple days ago and she mentioned the local funeral home is putting on a service of remembering. My Grandpa went to heaven this past year and she is going to attend (as is her friend who lost her son). The funeral home invited everyone to bring an ornament to add to the tree. I thought that was neat and meaningful idea (one that has been done at the CRC offices before and could be done at churches). 

A church in my community hosts the service, and clergy from other churches participate. The service is open to the whole community. As a pastor, I am very grateful for services like this which make space for people to hold their grief into the light. 

Participant

While a different name, the past few years we've held a "Longest Night" service that has a similar feel/intent. It's traditionally been on the winter solstice (the literal longest night), but we've moved it up this year because of scheduling challenges.

https://www.facebook.com/events/358913358228103/

Cragmor CRC (Colorado Springs, CO) is holding its first Blue Christmas service the evening of December 20. We haven't quite finished up the service order, but it's being based on https://www.reformedworship.org/article/september-2006/longest-night

 

Community Builder

Trinity CRC Rock Valley (IA) held a blue Christmas service just this past Sunday evening. It involved a candle lighting and times of reflection. I provided a meditation on Mt 2:16-18 (Herod's murder of the boys in Bethlehem and the lament from Jer 31:15) and Pr 25:20 (about not singing songs to a heavy heart), talking about how there's a place for lament in this season. Contact me if you'd like the order of worship or other details. ~Stanley