From The Rector…
Though many of us consider this “the most wonderful time of the year” not all of us do. For some, Christmas is not a holly, jolly season but instead a reminder of what we’ve lost or suffered this past year. Like me, some will know a first Christmas without a parent, or a spouse, or a sibling, or a child, or even a friend: the same people won’t be present around the Christmas tree or at the table this year. Some of us will know the cares and frustrations of being a caretaker: a tragic sense of life will interfere with the joy and wonder of previous years. Job loss, divorce, death, illness can cause us to grieve, and that grief can be so very present at this time of year.
It’s not simply our suffering that distracts us from the merriment of Christmas joy. It is the loneliness and fear and anxiety of facing a world that no longer holds the comforts we once knew. It is learning how to honor the losses in our life and not be defined by them when they are so fresh and difficult, and the world has been knocked askew. It is the dark and cold breaching the light that has shined in our heart and no matter how much we try to keep the light from going out, it only seems to grow dimmer. For some, it is a bleak midwinter that does not even know how to hope.
Elvis gives voice to the truth of Christmas without our loved ones, “decorations of red on a green Christmas tree won’t be the same, if you’re not here with me.” That truth might be countered by the knowledge and faith we share in the eternal life of those we love, “you’ll be doin’ all right with your Christmas of white, but I’ll have a blue, blue Christmas,” but, deep down it doesn’t make us feel better. We still miss our loved ones and wish they were here with us.
Having a blue Christmas is not a bad thing. It is simply a truth that counters the cultural expectations of our world. Not everyone is “doin’ all right.” Too many of us are lonely and sad and scared in a world that has been turned upside down on a global scale. Our losses and sufferings may be individualized, but they are also communal—Covid has had a lot to do with that. As such, those of us who have experienced personal losses, even if not Covid-related, may know an even greater level of suffering this Christmas.
God sends his only son into a world that is filled with darkness and the terrors of the night—because of his birth, others will die and the world will be ripped apart. That birth we celebrate at this time of year is not one without consequences, pain, or sorrows. It is a light in which the darkness will redouble its efforts to snuff out. The pain of the world will become the pain of God. In the birth pangs and labor of an unwed mother, God reminds us that life is not about ease or the avoidance of suffering and sorrow; life is about hope and embracing a tomorrow we cannot know today.
We will offer a “Blue Christmas” Eucharist on Wednesday at 5:15pm in the chapel to name and honor the suffering that Christmas can sometimes cause. The liturgy is designed to help us not only to name that suffering but to offer it to God and allow God to reframe our suffering in theological ways that help us to find peace in our losses and deepest cares. By the end of the Blue Christmas liturgy, the burdens and cares that have weighed us down, are lifted by the priest and prayed over by priest and people. The prayer recasts those sorrows into thanksgivings—opportunities in which we cast our grief on God and, in return, God embraces us with his all mighty love. He is our strength in our times of weakness and vulnerability.
The Blue Christmas Eucharist is not the only way the church reaches out and honors those who are suffering in this time of year. Our church family is tasked with this love and concern as well. In this bleak midwinter, each of us can do our part by giving our heart to all those who are alone or sad or scared. Pick up the phone and reach out to those you haven’t seen at church in a while or those who won’t have much in the way of family to be with this year. Put a card in the mail to someone you know is a shut-in or a widow/widower. It doesn’t have to be a big gesture; something simple will suffice.
I hope that you might have a holly, jolly Christmas this year. And, if not, I pray that we might all have a holy one.
Light and Life,