During my years as bishop in the Dakotas Conference, I discovered that many of the communities in North and South Dakota have a "Blue Christmas" service during December. Usually sponsored jointly by the local funeral home and the churches in town, they would host a worship service for families who had lost loved ones to death during the past year. Named after the Elvis Presley song with the lyrics, "It'll be a Blue Christmas Without You," those services acknowledged the truth that the first Christmas without a loved one is a time of feeling "blue" and sad and grief in a fresh way. Perhaps in a more sophisticated way, other churches host a "Longest Night Service" on December 21 (the shortest day in our northern hemisphere) to acknowledge the same truth – Christmas is a joyous time for most, but for some it is a tough time, a long night, a sadness, and a time of feeling "blue."
It is healthy and healing to acknowledge the reality of grief in the midst of celebrations, and it helps people to know that they are not alone in their grief even when it seems everyone else is having a jolly old time.
I share this story because this year is a "Blue Christmas" for me. It is the first Christmas after the death of my father, and thus it is also the first Christmas for Marsha and me without any of our four parents (they have all passed in the last five years). We are busy with many other cares, concerns, activities and Christmas events, but that "blueness" is always present in the back of our minds and hearts. Grief and loss are real, and that reality must be acknowledged, expressed and shared.
So for all who are grieving this holiday season, for all who are going through times of stress and loss, and for all who simply finding it difficult to enter into the joy of this season, let me remind you that the coming of Christ is especially for you. Jesus was born into the darkness, to a people who were living in darkness, poverty, repression, defeat and pain. Jesus came into a hurting world to bring light, hope and healing. Jesus did not come to those who were in the midst of parties and celebrations focused upon wealth and the accumulation of possessions (in fact the grown-up Jesus had harsh words for those persons for being a part of injustice). No, Jesus came into a hurting world to help and heal hurting people.
If you are among those who are "blue" for any reason this Christmas, let me remind you again that Christmas is for you, too.