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Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Blue Christmas

Well, we at The Episcopal Church of St. Paul in Chatham, NJ are about to embark on a liturgical experiment. We are about to observe our first Blue Christmas.

Don't know about Blue Christmas?

Let me tell you.

Blue Christmas is for those who are facing the joy of Christmas with the pain of loss. This is a service for those who have suffered loss - the death of a loved one, the gut-wrenching loss of a child, the loss of a job or chronic unemployment or underemployment, the loss of a friend due to estrangement, the loss of sobriety, the loss of a dream or a goal or a hope or a vision.

It is for the broken-hearted and the grief-stricken. It is for those whose souls are weary and in need of a word of hope.

We are holding our first Blue Christmas Service at The Episcopal Church of St. Paul, Chatham, NJ on Saturday, December 23 at 4 PM.

Some scripture reading (Isaiah 40, Psalm 22, Matthew 11:28-29). Some Christmas hymns (O Little Town of Bethlehem. Silent Night. O Come, O Come Emmanuel). Lots of silence for prayer. Candle lighting. An opportunity to put a loved one's name on a "Christmas Star of Remembrance." A Christmas Remembrance Tree in the Narthex, by the window which overlooks our Columbarium and Memorial Garden. A reception with following the service with some conversation.

All in all about an hour or so. One need not be an Episcopalian to attend. The best hour's worth of investment I can think of in the Season of Advent.

I just got this litany from a woman in FL which I think is astounding. It was sent to me by Jeanie Locicero, an Episcopalian who earns a living as Director of Worship Arts and Youth, Allendale United Methodist Chruch, Saint Petersburg FL.

I'm happy to share it with you.

If any of you have had experience with a Blue Christmas please do share what you've learned. It's a daunting task to deal with grief at Christmastide - my own and that of others. It will be our second Christmas without our beloved Jaime. In some ways, this is harder than the first.

Your suggestions, guidance and advice are greatly appreciated.

Litany for Blue Christmas Service

Reader: God who is with us, in this season of looking forward; of anticipating the celebration of your Son's birth and return in glory; we often find ourselves uncomfortable, uneasy, worried and sad. The lights and gaiety, the music, the bright joy around us, often make us more unquiet, more out of step, feeling even more disconnected and different.

All: Oh come, oh come Emmanuel.

Reader: Some of these feelings come from false expectations. Others come from real situations and issues that face us or those we love. Some are from events we may influence and some are beyond our control. Trusting in your grace and provision, we name these situations and face the pain and dislocation they cause us. We claim your promise to companion us in bearing them. We claim your steadfast love for us, knowing you will help us find peace for our troubled spirits. We claim your wise and merciful power, that you will meet each need as is best for us.

All: Oh come, oh come Emmanuel.

Reader: God of Light and Life, we light this candle for all those who are struggling with issues involving physical or mental health. We especially remember those struggling with cancer, depression, or thoughts of suicide. May its light remind us all of the healing available to us in Christ Jesus. Hear our prayers that anguish be minimized and your good plan fulfilled for each who suffer.

All: Oh come, oh come Emmanuel.

Reader: We light this candle for all those who are struggling with issues involving financial concerns, job loss, seemingly insurmountable debt. May its light remind us all that you are the Great Provider, you will give us our daily bread. Empower us to take the steps we need to solve these problems. Draw us to the right people and programs to help us.

All: Oh come, oh come Emmanuel.

Reader: We light this candle for all those who grieve. You know our deepest need, you understand our pain- lost dreams, lost opportunities, the separation of death. May its light remind us that we are not orphaned, we are not alone. Grant us grace that in pain we may find comfort, in sorrow hope, and in death resurrection.

All: Oh come, oh come Emmanuel.

Reader: We light this candle for all those who wrestle with the chains of addiction. Help us to name that which enslaves us and face it: food, alcohol, drugs, pornography, shopping, escapism, self medication, and self abuse in all its forms. May this candle bring your light to those secret, and not so secret, activities of imprisonment. Hear our prayers for deliverance and freedom; help us and those we love break the hold of these evils.

All: Oh come, oh come Emmanuel.

Reader: We light this candle for all those who are victims of violence in any of its forms. May its light lead us to peace, safety, and truth. Pour forth encouragement to claim your help in healing physically and spiritually, to trust in your justice, to find assistance, to resist blaming ourselves, to be confident in the future you have planned for us, a future full of hope.

All: Oh come, oh come Emmanuel.

Reader: We light this candle for all those who are experiencing the pain of broken relationships with family, children, spouses, and friends. May its light remind us of the pure communion you desire for all your creation. Our desire for this same communion makes estrangement so painful. Lead us to relinquish the hold broken relationships have on us, to forgive ourselves for our contribution to the breach, to forgive those who have hurt us, to take the steps to mend that relationship, if possible. Lord, we know that sometimes we suffer from a broken relationship with someone who is now dead. Help us to prayerfully examine, receive and extend forgiveness in that situation, that we may live again.

All: Oh come, oh come Emmanuel.

Reader: We light this candle for all those who are suffering the consequences of war, famine and unbridled disease. May its light remind us of your holy calling to every believerÂ… you are the light of the world. Change the hearts of all who resort to violence, who seek revenge. Protect those who find themselves far from home serving their nations or the needy. We know you are in the midst of those in anguish and pray that your healing presence will be seen, felt, and embraced. Reveal to us how to join in your saving work- to make tangible gifts to alleviate suffering, to support those on the front lines of natural and manmade disasters, to pray unceasingly for peace in our families, our neighborhoods, our world.

All: Oh come, oh come Emmanuel.

Reader: We light this candle for all those who are estranged from you, who are besieged with doubts, who are overwhelmed by the world and do not claim your presence in their lives. We pray for them, and therefore ourselves, for we confess that each of us knows this condition. Lord, may the light of your love lead us all home to you.

We ask all these things in the strong name of Jesus.

All: Oh come, oh come Emmanuel.



Catherine + said...

Dear Elizabeth+

This is the best concept I have seen for those of us who have suffered the loss of anyone important in our lives and for those who are too many to count, who die each day in this world.

I think you are right in saying that the second Christmas without the loved one we have lost is harder than the first. I cared for and lived with my mother for 15 years until her death a year ago May 5th.

This year however is harder; I miss her so very much; we were so much like each other and enjoyed much of the same things. I held her as she died and saw the light of the glory of heaven reflected in her eyes...

I wish you and yours peace as you move through this Advent season...I have forwarded your article to my priest and her associate rector and asked them to consider such a service in the coming years to help those of us who need this liturgy so very much.

Love and blessings,


Les P. said...

Thank you for sharing the Blue Christmas with us. I was sent a link to your blog my an EfM student in my group.

Have you prepared more of the liturgy for this event? Will you share that with us?

Les Parsons

Lisa said...

Elizabeth+, what a marvelous liturgy. Looks like I'm far from the first who's forwarding this to clergy friends far and near. I wish I could participate in such a powerful, healing service. It seems that broken hearts feel even more broken in this "season of light." Thank you for this gift.