Is Christmas Blue for You?

Fr Tom Simmons

Someone I loved once gave me

A box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand

That this, too, was a gift.

—Mary Oliver

We are approaching the Winter Solstice, the day of the year when night comes earliest and lasts longest. These days are colder, the trees bare, the sky overcast, and the penetrating damp feeling of winter rain is in the air.

But you know what? The presence of night guides us to the light. This dark can be a gift…even at Christmastime.

For a lot of people Christmas is a burden.  Well-intended people ask, “Are you ready for Christmas?” and the answer fills you with dread at all that you still need to do: the cooking, the shopping, the planning, the invitations, the wrapping, and decorating, and travelling, and cleaning, the bills, the parties, the mandatory good cheer!  I’m feeling exhausted just writing about it! 

For a lot of people Christmas is filled with sorrow.  It reminds us of someone we have lost.  Some can’t afford Christmas because they’ve lost a job, or savings, or home, or social standing. Some feel the weariness of ill health, isolation, or just feeling blue.

But I have good news for people who are busy or blue!

There’s a different way to observe Christmas: It’s called the “Blue Christmas” Service, our "Longest Night" liturgy on Thursday December 21 at 7 pm at Saint Peter’s. 

It is a service of remembrance and hope, where we can acknowledge the presence of darkness we may feel at Christmas time, and in it, find the gift of light.

The Christmas story is shot-through with both darkness and light.  That’s what makes Jesus’ birth “the greatest story ever told.” The story of Mary and Joseph on their winter journey before Jesus was born touches our own labor and loss, our weariness, and uncertainty about the future. 

There’s so much more to Christmas than Hallmark greetings, and seasonal cheer, cheer, cheer.  The Blue Christmas service offers you the freedom to feel… whatever you’re feeling.

The Winter Solstice speaks to the dark night of the soul, in which all of us find ourselves at some time.  At our “Longest Night Liturgy” we’ll sing songs, read scripture and pray, offer anointing with oil for healing, and share a message of hope.

Lois Hartzell of Montclair, California, said she doesn't go to church most of other times, but decided to make an exception for the Blue Christmas service this year.

For nearly the past decade "most of the Christmas season has been a blur" and a heavy reminder of six close deaths -- of her husband, a son, her parents, a brother and a sister -- all within a space of just five years.

"The holidays are hard for me," she said. "I still cry; I get into blue moods. I go from [relatives'] house to house and stay a little bit here, a little there and then I just go home." But she added: "I've never been to a service like this before. I enjoyed it. I feel good about having come." *

We offer this service for people burdened with the responsibility of creating that "Christmas magic" for others. We offer this service for people who suffering a loss, illness, or sadness this season. We offer this service for people looking for chance breathe in the seasonal busyness to meditate and pray, to regain their sense of hope, and the reason for the season.

Come, find some quiet comfort with others on Thursday December 21 at 7 p.m., at Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church at 37018 Glendale Street in Purcellville. 

*Quoted from Pat McCaughan, Episcopal News Service, December 10, 2010.

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