I grew up hearing about a quiet worship service not many people talked about during the Advent and Christmas seasons. It was called “A Blue Christmas,” and was typically run ecumenically by a couple of churches in my hometown a few days before Christmas Eve.
What always went unsaid was that it was really “the Christmas service for sad people.” For everyone else, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were bright and cheery celebrations.
While it was important to offer space for those who were having a tough time during the holidays, growing up I always got the impression that folks were uncomfortable with those “sad people” during Christmas. It’s interesting to me now as we are all heading toward a Blue Christmas, and we’re starting with a Blue Thanksgiving.
For so many people, this has been a year of disappointments and loss. We have found joy and gratitude in many moments, but this year’s holidays may not be as joyous, and that’s okay.
We put such a nice, glossy bow on the Christmas season. The twinkling lights, cookies, and parties bring us the sense of love and warmth we need to get through the difficult winter months ahead.
From Lent, to Holy Week, and now into Advent and Christmas, this year we have been plunged into the gritty realities of the high holy days. Our celebrations will be quieter, and maybe even a bit somber, but that does not diminish their significance.
As I reflect upon the very first Christmas, I imagine it was actually a time of great stress and anxiety. A young girl travelling long distances with her new husband trying to find a place to rest, perhaps sad to be away from the family she knew as she entered into this new family.
Neither knowing anyone in the town they were travelling to. Both thrilled and terrified of the anticipation of birth. Feeling the pressure that would come from knowing you were asked to raise a child who would redeem the world, while living with the fear of being on the run months after the birth of your child, then immigrating to a new land in order to stay safe.
This isn’t the first Christmas of trials, and it won’t be the last, but for many, it will be the first holiday season without in-person celebrations or in-person worship in their lifetime.
What a collective loss we are all feeling. Know that we’re allowed to be sad and are not expected to put on a show for other people or our kids. It’s even okay to cry.
This coming Christmas at camp has highlighted how much we have longed for our community this year. We are grateful that the holy ground at Pyoca can hold both our joy and sadness in this time of prolonged separation.
May you lift up those whose Christmas is blue, and do not be afraid if yours is a bit too. Know that we continue to pray for your health and safety.
Remember: Emmanuel, God is with us.