No, really. How are you?
Are you doing all right, in your Christmas of white? Has it been a year filled with blessings and prosperity, with your nearest and dearest gathered around you as you all enjoy a season of remembrance and joy?
Or, like me, are you disovering that the decorations of red on a green Christmas tree just aren’t the same in the wake of a life-altering loss?
For readers not necessarily having a holly jolly Christmas (pause) this year, an Associated Press story headlined “Churches offer ‘Blue Christmas’ for those in need” might grab your attention instead.
That’s a good thing, as this story did justice to the trend of congregations offering more reflective, candlelit services designed for those who have experienced a loss or traumatic event and find all the festivity of the season too much to handle:
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The crowd was small for a Christmastime church service, the atmosphere quiet and solemn. There were no joyous carols, no children dressed as nativity characters, no festive decorations.
About two dozen people gathered Monday night for a “Blue Christmas” service at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown St. Louis. It’s among many nationwide providing a special service aimed directly at those in need of spiritual healing — whether due to divorce, tough economic times, the loss of a loved one or whatever has them feeling down at the holidays.
Charles Brown, 35, is still grieving the loss of his mother, who died in June of congestive heart failure. After Monday’s service, Brown stuck around to be anointed with oil and for private words of healing from one of the pastors.
“He told me God is with me, God will bless me,” Brown said. “I feel like this was a chance to lay my burden down. It gave me comfort.”
The report, though short, did a nice job exploring the psychology behind the need for the services and sharing thoughts from those who organize and had attended. It also represented well different faith groups and traditions:
Christ Church Cathedral has offered Blue Christmas services for the past four holiday seasons. The church was lit mostly by candles. There was no sermon, instead it was a mix of scripture with healing words, quiet songs, prayers and the lighting of eight candles, each on behalf of particular struggles: Pain and illness, financial problems, broken families, addiction.
“I think it’s definitely a time people think about family members and loved ones who have died, or they think of divisions or broken relationships,” the Rev. Amy Chambers Cortright said. “Some people don’t really feel like they have a place anywhere.”
The Chillicothe Gazette in Ohio offered a local take on the subject with a story on a congregation hosting its first-ever such service. Though more limited in scope, I liked the tone of the piece and this quote in particular, from Pastor Janet Hatch of Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church:
Too often, people who are grieving around the holidays are told to cheer up, even if they don’t feel like it — even if the holidays are a painful reminder of what they’ve lost, Hatch told the Gazette.
“Christmas is not festive or fun for many of us,” Hatch said during her sermon. “There’s too much pain, too much grief, too much uncertainty in our lives to do much in the way of celebrating.”
In fact, “the celebrating around us makes us feel worse, as if there’s something wrong with us,” she said.
Have you seen an inspiring news story geared toward the Blue Christmas concept?
If so, please let the GetReligionistas know in the comment section.