Thursday, November 13, 2014

Blue Christmas - A reaction to a Facebook thread

Every once in a while something will trigger a reaction I did not anticipate.  I try not to be a reactionary person, but rather one who takes a step back from my reactions and examines the whole situation before moving forward.  What this means is that in conversations or places where I can leave a comment, I don't say anything.  Many times, my initial reaction will be off the charts ridiculous and it's better that I didn't say/write anything at all.  Sometimes, though, my reactions are sound and deserve to be aired, however long it takes.

When I was still working for Old Church, I became aware of a service that some churches hold around Christmas called "Blue Christmas".  Some call it the service "The Longest Night of the Year".  I prefer Blue Christmas.  The premise of this service, as I understand it, is to offer a time in the midst of the Christmas season, to remember, to contemplate, to acknowledge that for some people the Christmas season isn't a happy, joyous occasion.  I broached the subject of a Blue Christmas service with Old Church staff and it went nowhere.  At that point in time, I wasn't willing to push the envelope and yet I was constantly mindful that though the season of Christmas, for Christ followers, is celebrating the birth of new life in the form of a baby named Jesus, not everyone could embrace the celebration...even Christ followers.  The deaths, literal and metaphorical, in their lives simply swamped them and the joy of the season was muted.

A friend of mine, Ralphie, participated in a Blue Christmas service last year.  He and LN invited me to attend.  I had other things happening and couldn't, but this year, oh this year, I have been anticipating that service with a ferocity.  I need to be able to sit, in the midst of the joy of the Christmas season, and allow the pain and sorrow of this last year to surface.  I need the church universal to stand with me in my grief and pain and give me a space, with Christmas decorations all around, to allow the tears to flow and my heart to grieve the loss of my Dad.  (Of course, it will probably be held on the weekend that I have planned to be out of town but still, if I'm around, I'M THERE!)

Awhile back, in a group I am a part of on FB, a thread was started about Blue Christmas services and among the comments was one that triggered a reaction.  A very strong reaction.  I shut down FB, walked away from the computer and cried.  I don't believe the comment wasn't meant for harm, simply an observation from one person's perspective.  In that moment, however, I was thrown back into a state of wondering why I do church anymore.  

My reaction wasn't rational, yet at the same time there is an element that I believe church folks need to hear and be reminded of, as we approach the season of Christmas.   I can only speak from my perspective and so I offer my truth this Christmas season.  I love Jesus, I love the Christmas season and yet I'm going to have trouble finding joy this Christmas.

Please don't deny, belittle or otherwise make light of those who aren't joyful this Christmas season.  For it isn't Jesus' birth that makes us sad, it's the life and love we find and lose on this earth that brings sorrow, heartache and grief.  Yes, there is joy in Jesus and yes, there is joy in Christmas but the reality of life means we also deal with the reality of loss.  In diminishing or otherwise denying that reality, we risk alienating the very people who need us the most this Christmas season.

Ralphie asked if I would be willing to sing with him at the Blue Christmas service this year, a song that we had sung together three years ago at a joy-filled Christmas celebration.  I answered honestly, I'm not sure that I will be able to sing.  But, if I'm in town, I will pull out my guitar and play as he sings.  I will allow the words to penetrate my grief-stricken heart and give myself the space to be sad in a season of joy and take comfort in a body of believers who recognize "through all my tears, for what I've lost, there's still my joy for Christmas day."