Have you ever been in the middle of a shopping mall or crowded store and felt totally alone? Have you struggled through the season of Advent and Christmas thinking that you are supposed to be joyful yet feeling down and depressed and sad? If so, you aren’t alone.
There are churches all over the country who recognize that the Advent/Christmas season is, for many people, a struggle – a dark time in their lives, and they dread the bright lights, happy wishes, brightly wrapped packages, and all the things that go with it. Last week, I told my husband that I was melancholy every Christmas and wondered out loud if it’s because I haven’t spent Christmas with my family of origin since 1973.
He goes through the same feelings every year for a variety of reasons. His mother died the week of Christmas; his grandfather died on New Year’s day, and after his divorces he wasn’t able to spend Christmas Day with his children. The joy of decorating and celebrating gradually disappeared.
For many who have spent Christmas alone, they understand the feeling of “blue Christmas.” It’s not just a song made popular by Elvis Presley. So the Blue Christmas services that are offered on the Winter Solstice are intended to acknowledge these struggles and feelings, but even more than that, they offer a sense of the real purpose of remembering Jesus’ birth. It’s not about the presents or the lights or the parties; rather, it’s about the hope that Jesus brings because God chose to come to earth as a human being, born into our world and relating to us on our “turf.”
This particular Christmas season is a struggle for my family since my mom who has Alzheimer’s Disease has been moved to a long term nursing facility. We know this is one more step for her stepping into the presence of God, but leaving us. We have been so fortunate to have her for so many years, and she has been a strong influence on our lives, teaching us values that we have carried into adulthood, as well as providing us with unconditional and uncomplaining love. It has been hard to see her gradually fade away. She’s not the mother and wife that we all knew. Yet, deep down inside she knows we are “hers,” and there is still that connection of love.
Our Blue Christmas service will, once again, provide a place for me to deal with my ambivalence about celebrating Christmas and help me to focus on the real purpose of celebrating Jesus’ birth – the reminder of a Savior who has lived our lives, experienced our experiences, and understands our feelings. There is hope in the yearly reminder of Jesus’ birth. That is what we seek this time of year: hope – there is always hope. Maybe that’s also what the star brings us. So, we seek a blessed Christmas for ourselves, and we wish everyone the hope and joy that Emmanuel – God-With-Us brings this time of year and all year long. Merry and blessed Christmas!