Blue Christmas Liturgy

 In liturgy

This piece was written/modified for Noel United Methodist Church using original writing as well as pieces from additional Blue Christmas resources.

Leader begins; community reads the bold together.

 

WELCOME AND PRAYER

Welcome, you who ache and do not know why.

Welcome, you who are weary of loneliness.

Welcome, you who battle with chronic pain in your bodies or chronic despair in your minds.

Welcome, you riddled with anxiety around every corner.

Welcome, you in transition and you starving for change.

Welcome, you who feel the weight of debt and shame.

Welcome, you at the beginning of a diagnosis. Welcome, you at the end.

Welcome, you, friend or family of anyone carrying these loads.

Welcome, skeptic. Welcome, purpose-needer. Welcome, you who cannot recognize yourself.

Welcome, you who have lost love, who have lost hope, who have lost faith in a good God.

Welcome, all of you…every part of you…into this space.

Let us be together, here and now.

 

Blue Christmas is a service of worship designed for people suffering with pain, loss, isolation, and grief during the Advent season. On this night, we remember those for whom the holidays are not joyful—those who are mourning the loss of a loved one; those who are separated or alienated for whatever reason; those who are lonely; those who are feeling depression and sadness.

Let us be together, here and now.

 

Glory to You, O God, the hope of our salvation.

Who has promised to never leave or forsake us.

You humbled yourself into our existence, shrinking into the world you created to be nurtured by the womb of an unwed teenager. Your entrance was met with rejection; your resting place, a trough for animals. You lived your first years as a refugee. You were tempted, threatened, humiliated, and despairing. You, Christ Jesus, wept. You depended on other humans for borrowed colts, boats, homes, and food. After your death, you were placed in someone else’s tomb. You, Lord, have known the human experience, filled with heartache, poverty, dependency, loss and fear.

Emmanuel, God with us.

 

Let us pray.

God of love and understanding, we gather here this evening to hold with one another our pain in the midst of the world’s celebration. Help us to know that you are present with us in all of our moods and feelings and seasons. Grant us a taste of the hope, peace, joy and love that you promise to all of your people through the gift of your son Jesus. Amen.

Hymn Emmanuel, Emmanuel UMH #204

 

READINGS

 

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 9:2; 6-7)

 

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

 

The Word of the Lord

Thanks be to God.

 

A reading from Mary Oliver’s poem, Wild Geese.

 

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

 

Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.

Thanks be to God.

 

LIGHTING OF THE CANDLES

FIRST CANDLE

 

As we light the candle of hope, we ask, O God, where is our hope?  Where are your known plans to give us a future? Where is the hope that renews our strength when we’ve experienced such long stints of loss? How do we set our minds on things above when we are so tired and confused? How do we trust that the fires we walk through will not burn us when we have been burned before?

In the darkness, Lord, lead us to the light of Hope.

(silence)

 

SECOND CANDLE

 

As we light the candle of peace, we ask, O God, where is our peace? Where is the peace that passes understanding? Where is the peace in which we lie down and sleep, where you make us to dwell in safety? Where is the peace in our world, in our homes, and our hearts? Where is the peace for those who have loved and lost, who have experienced trauma, who have made mistakes?

In the darkness, Lord, lead us to the light of Peace.

(silence)

 

THIRD CANDLE

 

As we light the candle of joy, we ask, O God, where is our joy? How do we celebrate amongst grief? How do we exercise the muscles of laughter amidst tears? Where is our joy for this life when we are surrounded by so much death? Where is our joy in this community when we are isolated by so much loneliness? Where is our joy in this day that you have made? How can we be glad in it?

In the darkness, Lord, lead us to the light of Joy.

(silence)

 

FOURTH CANDLE

 

As we light the candle of love, we ask, O God, where is our love? Where do we find it again once we’ve invested it in such fragile bodies no longer here? Where do we find it again after an ending, a tragedy, a betrayal? Where is love amongst so much hate? Where is love amongst so much pain? Where is love for our neighbor when we cannot see your image within them? Where is love for ourselves when we cannot see your image within us?

In the darkness, Lord, lead us to the light of Love.

(silence)

 

READINGS

 

A reading from the gospel according to Luke (Luke 2:1-7)

 

In those days, a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazereth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

 

The Word of the Lord

Thanks be to God.

 

And a reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 40:1-5)

 

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hands double for all her sins. A voice of one calling in the wilderness: “Prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

 

The Word of the Lord

Thanks be to God.

 

Reflection

 

You are invited to write on paper the names of those who are in need of hope, peace, joy, and love this year, as well as any experiences of loss and pain that are weighing on your heart and mind. You may come forward, place your written prayers on the altar, light candles and kneel in prayer.

 

CHRIST CANDLE

 

As we light the Christ candle, we ask, O God, where is Christ? He is here among us, sharing in our life, promising us a place and time of no more pain and suffering. He is here among us, giving us today what we need for today. He is here among us, showing us God’s self in each other, in nature, in memory, in healing—however slowly. He is here among us, with a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light. He is here among us, resurrecting. He is here among us, not leaving us. He is here among us, not forsaking us. He is here among us, still.

 

God is here among us, still.

Let us pray.

God who came near, is near, and will come near again, wrap these names in your unquestionable presence at this time. We thank you that all of the darkness in the universe cannot squelch a single flame. Lead us to your Light, O Lord. Comfort us on the winding road of grief. Steady us on the disorienting road of change. Fill us on the empty road of loss. Connect us on the lonely road of despair. Heal us in ways for which we don’t know how to ask. Meet us in places and people where we’d least expect you. We thank you for the Christmas Story and the gift that it offers us in telling us to “Keep going. God has come.”

 

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

 

Hymn Silent Night 

 

Benediction

 

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