Blue Christmas. Sunday Evening, December 19th, 2021. When Christmas Hurts.


This service was developed by Heather Hill. This type of service has many names Blue Christmas/ Longest Night/ When Christmas hurts, and she has found it very helpful in her congregation. All Scripture comes from the NRSV. She has given permission for others to use it.


Blue Christmas Service: When Christmas Hurts

The service begins in silence so all may participate in a time of reflection: May God help each of us to participate tonight and throughout the season as we are able.



Prelude: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Instrumental.


Acknowledgement

Welcome


Opening Hymn: Northern Advent. By, Common Cup Co.

November feels so final, the trees so bleak and stark,

the land so cold and silent, Our hearts November dark.

Like land that waits for sunrises, shivering till the dawn,

keeping watch this Northern Advent, we sing out life’s true song.


We are not the morning, we are not the dawn.

We are just the land that waits the first light of the sun.


Winter holds us in her pocket, snow covers life in drifts,

The frost shapes patterns on glass showing every human rift.

The poor, the frail, the lonely wait in winters deep despair,

keeping watch this Norther Advent, for the birth cry of your care.


We are not the morning, we are not the dawn.

We are just the land that waits the first light of the sun.


In our November endings, winter fears of grief and loss,

Keep all that’s human, holy, through your Advent, Birth and Cross.

Sun’s low on the horizon, Our night’s outlast our days,

keeping watch this Northern Advent, we await your coming grace.


We are not the morning, we are not the dawn.

We are just the land that waits the first light of the sun.


THE GATHERING OF THE COMMUNITY

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all

And also with you.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow, a light has shone. For the yoke that was weighing upon them, and the burden upon their shoulders, you have broken in pieces, 0 God, our Redeemer.


Together we pray:

God of mercy, hear our prayer in this Advent season for ourselves and for our families who live with painful thoughts and memories. We ask for strength for today, courage for tomorrow and peace for the past. We ask these things in the name of your Christ, who shares our life in joy and sorrow, death and new birth, despair and promise. Amen.

THE LITURGY OF THE WORD


A Reading from the book of Isaiah (40:1, 25-31)

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God’? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Psalm 121

I will lift up my eyes to the hills, from where is my help to come?

My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth

He will not let your foot be moved and he who watches over you will not fall asleep.

Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord himself watches over you; the Lord is your shade at your right hand.

So that the sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; it is he who shall keep you safe.

The Lord shall watch over your going out and your coming in, from this time forth for ever more.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew (11:28-30 )

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.


Hymn: Christmas Come Close. By, Shirley Murray and Lim See Hong. Hope Publishing Now.


Christmas come close

in a child's crumpled face,

to the ragged and raw

in a harsh birthing place,

in a surging of joy,

in a bundle held tight,

in a breath, in a cry

through the dark of the night.


Christmas come close

to the place where we are,

in our longing for peace,

for a sign, for a star,

for a certainty born

in uncertainty's space,

for a mystery grasped

that our blindness can trace.


Christmas come close

to the world that is bleak,

giving hope a new home,

making prophecy speak:

so the angels will sing,

and the wise will be heard,

and the powers will take heed

of this child and his word.


Christmas come close

into focus and frame,

to humanity's heart

for the child to make claim:

for the poor to be served,

for the rich to kneel low,

for Magnificat now

in the Christmas we know.

Words © 2014 Hope Publishing Company, 380 S Main Pl, Carol Stream, IL 60188


A LITURGY OF REMEMBRANCE

Lighting of Four Advent Candles


First Candle:

The first candle we light to remember those persons whom we have loved and lost. We pause to remember their name, their voice, their face, the memory that binds them to us in this season. We hold them before God, giving thanks for their lives in ours.


Please take a moment to remember those who have died. And as we name them we light a bulb in their memory….

Lord, each of us takes our loved one by the hand and leads them to you, the God of love, Here, we present them to you. Accept our love and thanksgiving as we entrust them to your loving care. We want our loved ones to be free at home with you. We ask that you save a place for us beside them. We ask that you fill us with motivation and energy in the days ahead when we feel like giving up; remind us often of our true homeland when we are caught up in the desolation of the journey. Help us to find joy in the people, events and the beauty of nature which surrounds us. Thank you for the gift each of these people has been in our lives. We want to believe that we will celebrate the treasure of love with them again, when we are all in your presence forever. May this truth sustain us in the days to come. Take our sad and aching hearts and comfort us. Comfort us, for we only feel hollowness and emptiness. God of sorrowing, draw near! Amen.



Hymn: I Was There To Hear Your Borning Cry. By, John Ylvisaker. “With One Voice” Song book

“I was there to hear your borning cry, I’ll be there when you are old. I rejoiced the day you were baptized, to see your life unfold. I was there when you were but a child, with a faith to suit you well; in a blaze of light you wandered off to find where demons dwell.“


“When you heard the wonder of the Word I was there to cheer you on; you were raised to praise the living Lord, to whom you now belong. If you find someone to share your time and you join your hearts as one, I’ll be there to make your verses rhyme from dusk ‘till rising sun.”

“In the middle ages of your life, not too old, no longer young, I’ll be there to guide you through the night, complete what I’ve begun. When the evening gently closes in, and you shut your weary eyes, I’ll be there as I have always been with just one more surprise.”


“I was there to hear your borning cry, I’ll be there when you are old. I rejoiced the day you were baptized, to see your life unfold.”


Second Candle:

The second candle we light is to redeem the pain of loss; the loss of relationships, the loss of jobs with the security they bring, the loss of health in ourselves or in family members, the loss of joy and peace in our lives from the stresses which surround us, the loss and loneliness we experience when our loved ones do not share our faith. As we gather up the pain of the past we offer it to you, 0 God, asking that into our open hands you will place the gift of peace.


Please take a moment to remember the losses. I invite you to name them, aloud or in the silence of your hearts….

God of mystery, we turn our hearts to you. We come before you in need of peace, grateful for the mystery of life and ever keenly aware of your promises of guidance and protection. We want to place our trust in you, but our hearts grow fearful and anxious. We forget so easily that you will be with us in all that we experience. Teach us to be patient with the transformation of our lives and to be open to the changes which we are now going through. Amen.


Hymn: We Wait for You. By, David Bjorlin, Refrain Randall Sensmeier


In our deepest grief, we wait for you.

In our unbelief, we wait for you.


We wait for you, we wait for you.

Hope of all creation, we wait for you.


Through a stream of tears, we wait for you.

Through a maze of fears, we wait for you.


We wait for you, we wait for you.

Hope of all creation, we wait for you.


When we feel alone, we wait for you.

When the way’s unknown, we wait for you.


We wait for you, we wait for you.

Hope of all creation, we wait for you.


Till you right each wrong, we wait for you.

Till we all belong, we wait for you.


We wait for you, we wait for you.

Hope of all creation, we wait for you.


Third Candle:

The third candle we light for those who experience a loss of direction in their lives.


God of the Exodus, you led Moses and your people through the wilderness to a new land. Hear our prayer. We want so much to have a sense of direction, to know where we are and where we ought to be headed. But the darkness and the questions stay. You ask us to be full of faith, to believe deep within that you are our signpost, that you are our wisdom and our guide, and to trust in your presence. Your words to us are clear: “Do not fear, I go before you.”


God of our depths, we cry out to you to be our guide. Help us to have a strong sense of inner direction and grant that we may have the reassurance of knowing that we are on the right path. Take our lives and use them according to your will. Take all that is lost in us and bring it home with you. Amen.


Hymn: Drawing Nearer. By, Christopher Grundy.


Even in the midst of all of this, trouble on the news,

no peace within, still there is light in the distance

drawing nearer, drawing nearer.


So open up our eyes to see your light,

open up our arms, they’re clenched so tightly,

come in like a thief and steal our hearts

like a baby, like a baby

even in the midst of all of this.

Fourth Candle:

The fourth candle we light as a sign of hope, the hope that the Christmas story offers to us. We remember that God, who shares our life, promises us a place and time of no more pain and suffering.


O God whose spirit is known by those whose hearts are thankful, and who makes cheerfulness a companion of strength, lift up our hearts, we pray, to a joyous confidence in your care. Guide us when we cannot see the way. Teach us to know that a shadow is only a shadow, because the light of eternal goodness shines behind the object of our fears. Where there is love in life, teach us to find it; help us to trust it and enable us to grow in the power of love. So may our lives bring comfort and encouragement to others. We ask it, in the name of Jesus Christ whose life is our light. Amen.


Hymn: Kindle A Flame. By, Philip Garside.


Kindle a flame within our hearts let your light shine through

let your light shine thorough.


Kindle a flame within our hearts let your justice shine through

let your justice shine through.


Kindle a flame within our hearts let your hope shine through

let your hope shine through.


Kindle a flame within our hearts let your love shine through

let your love shine through.


Kindle a flame within our hearts let your peace shine through

let your peace shine through.


In the spirit of this season let us now confidently ask our God for all the good things we need: For ourselves as we participate in this Christmas as special people coping with our many different losses. God, hear our prayer.

And in your mercy, answer.


For our families and friends, that they may continue to help and support us. God, hear our prayer.

And in your mercy, answer.


For any person we have loved who has died, for all the losses we know in our lives, that all may be redeemed by your Easter promise. God, hear our prayer.

And in your mercy, answer.


For our family and friends, that you may bless them with love, peace, and joy. God, hear our prayer.

And in your mercy, answer.


For peace throughout the world as proclaimed by the Christmas Angels on that faraway hillside. God, hear our prayer

And in your mercy, answer.


For greater understanding of the lessons of love and acceptance as taught by Jesus your Christ. God, hear our prayer.

And in your mercy, answer.

God of great compassion and love, listen to the prayers of these your people. Grant to all, especially the bereaved and troubled ones this Christmas, the blessing we ask in the name of Jesus, who taught us to pray:


Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen.


Lighting of Individual Candles

Each of us comes bearing our own hurts, sorrows, broken places. I want to invite each of you to offer your personal wound to the God who loves each of us deeply and wants to carry our pain. God waits patiently, gently calling out: “Give me your pain, come to me… all who labor and are heavy laden, I will refresh you!”


I invite each of you to light a candle. As you light the candle, remember that it is God who lights a candle in our darkness and holds us close until we are able to shine.

You may, during this time, sit quietly and pray or indicate that you would like laying on of hands and a blessing by crossing your arms over your chest and a person will come to you

These lights in their brightness are only symbols, but as they burn and finally go out, we remember that suffering passes, though memory remains forever.

CLOSING

As we gather today, we embrace and claim the darkness that is present both in the world and in our own lives. As people who are familiar with the darkness, we also know that we gather to be illumined by the light of the Christ Child this Christmas season. May the Christ Child, born in a lowly stable, himself an outcast and marginal, bring light, comfort, peace, and joy this holiday season.


Hymn: In The Bleak Midwinter. CP122


In the bleak mid-winter, frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, In the bleak mid-winter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain, heaven and earth shall flee away, when He comes to reign. In the bleak mid-winter, a stable-place sufficed The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Angels and archangels, may have gathered there; cherubim and seraphim, thronged the air; but his mother only in her maiden bliss, worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;

if I were a wise man, I would do my part;

yet what I can, I give him- give my heart.


May the hope of the Christ Child sustain us through this darkness.

That together we may shine again. Amen


Postlude: Song for A Winter’s Night. By, Gordon Lightfoot


The lamp is burnin' low upon my table top, the snow is softly falling. The air is still in the silence of my room; I hear your voice softly calling.

If I could only have you near to breathe a sigh or two, I would be happy just to hold the hands I love on this winter’s night with you.

The smoke is rising in the shadows overhead, My glass is almost empty. I read again, between the lines on the page, the words of love you sent me.

If I could know within my heart that you were lonely, too, I would be happy just to hold the hands I love on this winter’s night with you.

The fire is dying now,

my lamp is growing dim, the shades of night are lifting. The morning light steals across my window pane,

where webs of snow are drifting.


If I could only have you near to breathe a sigh or two, I would be happy just to hold the hands I love and to be once again with you,

and to be once again with you.