Ask a Priest: What is a “Blue Christmas” Liturgy?
Think of the world around us right now. It is a world filled 24 hours a day with the “marketing” of Christmas: Joy to the World; Hark the Herald Angels Sing; A Christmas Song; The 12 Days of Christmas; Merry Christmas; Christmas parties at school and work; Family reunions; Lots of presents; Lots of great food… The message is clear! You have to be HAPPY!!!
It is simply a truth that in the midst of the real joy and happiness that comes in December, that personal and emotional challenges are at their highest at the same time. Many things seem to come to a head as the days get shorter and the parties begin to ramp up; Memories of love ones who have died; The stress of broken families or relations; Reflecting on a year that was so bad you can’t wait for January 1st.
Over the last few decades, many churches have begun to offer liturgies called “Blue Christmas” or “The Liturgy of the Longest Night.” These liturgies offer to those dealing with difficult challenges a safe place to be in the midst of the hustle and bustle found outside. The liturgies offer a reassurance of the certainty of God’s presence even in the midst of pain, sorrow, and grief, and a space to tell the truth about the pain. Most importantly, the liturgies won’t try to fix anything – they offer a way to be present without having to fake anything. These liturgies speak the truth that God loves us, and we love each other, in times when we’re feeling broken just as much as in times when we’re feeling happy, and they offer comfort and pastoral care in a season when it can be difficult to ask for it.
Blue Christmas services often take the form of a modified Order for Evening from the Book of Common Prayer. They include prayers of comfort, hymns of healing, and scripture which state God’s presence. Most importantly, the service is done in church and with other people, and permission is given to cry.
The promise of Advent and Christmas is Emmanuel (God with us). Blue Christmas Liturgies offer yet another way to see the promise lived out.
Fr. Ernesto Medina,
St. Martha’s, Papillion