Blue Christmas

first-christmas

BLESSING FOR THE LONGEST NIGHT
All throughout these months,
as the shadows
have lengthened,
this blessing has been
gathering itself,
making ready,
preparing for
this night.
It has practiced
walking in the dark,
traveling with
its eyes closed,
feeling its way
by memory,
by touch,
by the pull of the moon
even as it wanes.
So believe me
when I tell you
this blessing will
reach you,
even if you
have not light enough
to read it;
it will find you,
even though you cannot
see it coming.
You will know
the moment of its
arriving
by your release
of the breath
you have held
so long;
a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
a thinning
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
around you.
This blessing
does not mean
to take the night away,
but it knows
its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots
along the path,
knows what it means
to travel
in the company
of a friend.
So when
this blessing comes,
take its hand.
Get up.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.
This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.
(Source: Jan Richardson, The Cure for Sorrow)

When you are in a dark place
and you want to get out of it,
remember that life is not somewhere else,
but where you are.
The story may or may not be
that you quickly escape.
But the story surely is that God is with you
where you are.
Before you leap toward the escape hatch,
be where you are.
Notice. Look around, even in a dark room,
and see God there
before you leave.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

What to do when Christmas hurts blog entry (John Pavlovitz)

Blue Christmas liturgy on Godspace blog by John Palovitz

Rev Cathie Lambert reflects on Blue Christmas 2016.
The depth of my heart’s cry was for Aleppo. I cannot comprehend what it is like to run for your life. I cannot begin to imagine the horror of seeing loved ones killed in front of me. I don’t understand the despair, the nightmare it must be to feel forgotten by much of the world. I feel completely helpless. The enormity of the trauma and destruction is overwhelming. The easiest response is often denial. But I cannot ignore the pictures, the stories and the messages. At the Blue Christmas service, we invite people to take a blue bauble or a star to hang on their tree or give to someone as a gift. I took a star for Aleppo. As the story goes, a bright star shone in that part of the world 2000 years ago. It was a guiding light, bringing hope to many. My Aleppo star is a constant prayer of hope for a people who have nothing left this Christmas time.

In the light and beauty of day
We give thanks in awe and wonder.
In the dark and stillness of night
We dream of healing and hope
(Gretta Vosper)

Interesting article here: What to do when holidays hurt.

‘Blue Christmas’ services:  In addition to  people grieving the loss of a loved one, all kinds of losses may be included – health, security etc, as well as recognizing those who support others who suffer loss (including those supporting refugees).

We are a city church and open our doors each day for people who wish to use the church for quiet meditation, reading and ‘being’. We have prepared a resource for people who wish to drop in to reflect on ‘blue feelings’ at Christmas. The resource has been compiled and adapted from several sources. The resource enables some guidance for reflection and prayer without a formal church service led by a minister, which suits many of the folk who work and play and visit the CBD, and who prefer to drop in and quietly read and meditate in the church.

Blue Christmas, Blue Christmas PDF

Rev Cathy Lambert writes: The idea of this service is to acknowledge that Christmas can be a difficult time for some people. We are surrounded by the media telling us how we should be full of joy during this season, but that is not always easy. If this is the first Christmas since a loved one died, or it has been a difficult year emotionally, or there are broken relationships to deal with – Christmas can be a time of dread and sorrow.

Jan Richardson: Grief is so daily. It finds us in every moment we will never share with our loved one again, every routine we have lost, every pattern and practice and rhythm we have to create anew. Here’s the secret: that’s where the solace lives, too, and the grace. That’s where love still waits for us, every moment, every day.

Blessing for the dailiness of grief
Sorry I am
to say it,
but it is here,
most likely,
you will know the rending
most deeply.

It will take your breath away,
how the grieving waits for you
in the most ordinary moments.

It will wake
with your waking.

It will
sit itself down
with you at the table,
inhabiting the precise shape
of the emptiness
across from you.

It will walk down the street
with you
in the form of
no hand reaching out
to take yours.

It will stand alongside you
in every conversation,
nearly unbearable
in its silence
that fairly screams.

It will
brush its teeth
with you at night
and climb into bed
with you
when finally
you let go
of this day.

Even as it goes
always with you,
it will still manage
to startle you with
its presence,
causing you to weep
when you enter
the empty kitchen
in the morning,
when you spread fresh sheets
on the bed you shared,
when you walk out
through the door
alone
and pass back through it
likewise.

It is here
you will know it best—
in the moments
that made up the rhythm
of your days,
that fashioned the litany
of your life,
the togethering
you will never know
in the same way again.

But I will tell you
it is here, too,
that your solace lies.
It will wait for you
in those same moments
that stun you
with their sorrow.

I cannot tell you how,
but it will not cease
to carry you
in the cadence that has
forever altered
but whose echo will persist
with a stubbornness
that will surprise you,
bearing you along,
breathing with you still
through the terrible
and exquisite
ordinary days.
(Source: Jan Richardson, from a forthcoming book of blessings)

I hear
the love of those
who have loved me
echo in me.
All the notes of my song
sing over theirs,
the only kind of beauty.
The song does not die.
May I live
with love and mercy
for it will echo
long after.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

A poem by Anna McKenzie (may be appropriate for Blue Christmas):
And so we must learn to live again,
we of the damaged bodies
and assaulted minds.
Starting from scratch with the rubble of our lives
and picking up the dust
of dreams once dreamt.
And we start there, naked in our vulnerability,
proud of starting over, fighting back,
but full of weak humility
at the awesomeness of the task.
We, without a future,
safe, defined, delivered
now salute you God.
Knowing that nothing is safe,
secure, inviolable here.
Except you,
and even that eludes our minds at times.
And we hate you
and we love you,
and our anger is as strong
as our pain,
our grief is deep as oceans,
and our need as great as mountains.
So, as we take our first steps forward
into the abyss of the future,
we would pray for
courage to go places for the first time
and just be there.
Courage to become what we have
not been before
and accept it,
with bravery to look deep
within our souls to find
new ways.
We did not want it easy God,
but we did not contemplate
that it would be quite this hard,
this long, this lonely.
So, if we are to be turned inside out,
and upside down,
with even our pockets shaken,
just to check what is rattling
and left behind,
we pray that you will keep faith with us,
and we with you,
holding our hands as we weep,
giving us strength to continue,
and showing us beacons
along the way
to becoming new.
We are not fighting you God,
even if it feels like it,
but we need your help and company,
as we struggle on.
Fighting back
and starting over.

Responsive liturgy
Please speak the response when you hear: “…this season brings forth many feelings”….
Response: We find comfort in naming these feelings; we find some peace in being together

All around us are bright lights and merry messages
Yet in our heart not all is joyful
There is grief with the loss of relationships,
Those we love no longer with us because of death
Those we have loved who are estranged from us
Those we love yet experience a diminishment of intimacy
There is grief with the loss and change of relationship,
Grief, bittersweet for it is a consequence of the presence of love
…this season brings forth many feelings
We find comfort in naming these feelings;
we find some peace in being together

All around us are bright lights and merry messages
Yet in our heart not all is joyful
There may be pain in our bodies,
Physical pain as a natural outcome of aging
Physical pain that presents itself in illness
Pain in the body that forces us to change and imposes limitations
Pain, bittersweet for physical experience includes both pain and pleasure and
…this season brings forth many feelings
We find comfort in naming these feelings;
we find some peace in being together

All around us are bright lights and merry messages
Yet in our heart not all is joyful
There may be anger and regret with the memories we hold,
Anger with past experiences of hurt or abuse,
Regret of our own actions that may have cause hurt to others,
Anger that life has not turned out as we imagined,
Regret for what we might have said or done,
Anger and regret, bittersweet in presenting the possibility for healing and forgiveness,
…this season brings forth many feelings
We find comfort in naming these feelings;
we find some peace in being together

All around us are bright lights and merry messages
Yet in our heart not all is joyful
There may be uncertainty that accompanies transition and change,
Uncertainty of what the future may bring with changes,
Uncertainty of direction or purpose after retirement or change of vocation,
Uncertainty when changing residence, by choice or necessity,
Uncertainty, bittersweet for change, a constant in life, let’s us know we are alive, and change along with
…this season brings forth many feelings
We find comfort in naming these feelings;
we find some peace in being together

All around us are bright lights and merry messages
Yet in our heart not all is joyful
There may be a sense of hopelessness,
Hopelessness in the face of so much violence and suffering
Hopelessness with attempts to heal our aching world and ourselves
Hopelessness in witnessing what we have not managed to accomplish
Hopelessness, bittersweet for its longing reminds us of our capacity for hope and the human spirit’s tenacity and courage that rest deep within each of us as
…this season brings forth many feelings
We find comfort in naming these feelings;
we find some peace in being together

All around us are bright lights and merry messages
Yet in our heart not all is joyful
There is loneliness,
Loneliness when we find ourselves alone after being long-partnered,
Loneliness when we are separated from loved ones,
Loneliness when we move to a new community and struggle to find our way,
Loneliness that never seems filled even with good company,Loneliness that is an ever-present aching in the heart,
Loneliness, bittersweet for it is felt only when we have known connectedness and
…this season brings forth many feelings
We find comfort in naming these feelings;
we find some peace in being together

All around us are bright lights and merry messages
Yet in our heart not all is joyful
We know grief and pain,
We know anger and regret,
We know hopelessness and loneliness,
We know all these feeling, we name them, we live them for such is the human experience
That love presents us with the possibility of being hurt, with the grief of loss,
That connection holds the potential of loneliness and uncertainty,
That forgiveness can begin to heal anger and regret
That being alive is a courageous act in which we engage all of our emotions and
…this season brings forth many feelings
We find comfort in naming these feelings;
we find some peace in being together
(Source: Rev. Debra Faulk for Blue Christmas Vespers Service, December 2007, Don Heights Unitarian Congregation, Toronto, Canada)

In my family mourning was not done publicly. Therefore, I, as a child, assumed it was not done at all. Both sets of grandparents died and I recall hidden tears, the quick turn away to look out a window, the closing of a door. This mysterious behavior seemed to commence with the announcement of death and end immediately after the funeral.
Of course, if mourning is private, almost secretive as though shameful, there can be no comforting.
Now I discover that, if honest emotion is shared, the response tends to be compassionate, but if those who grieve don’t bring up the subject of fatal illness and death, no one else will. Those who would comfort us are watching our eyes, awaiting our lead. No one can know how to help unless we teach them.
(Source: Barbara Lazear Ascher, Landscape Without Gravity: A Memoir of Grief, 121)

I do not think that time heals all wounds, but sometimes we can find ways of integrating our losses into a new sense of ourselves and the world. We cannot always know the way in advance. And the best, most empathetic guides are often support groups or the supporting presence of those individuals who have survived similar experiences.

For the Grieving
God who grieves,
Christ of compassion,
Spirit of comfort and hope,
We grieve for the grieving.
Those for whom the ache of memory taints the present and colours any vision for the future.
Those for whom there is a hole in their life which cannot be filled or covered up, but simply borne.
Those for whom memories are both sweet and sad and when daily encounters may unpredictably evoke tears and sadness anew.
Those who can’t and shouldn’t have to get over the chasm of their loss, but who seek to move forward carrying this emptiness.
We grieve and pray for those who have lost a sense of normal with the void in their routine living carved out by who or what has been lost.
May a new normal evolve, and may it bring some sense of comfort and healing.
We pray for those haunted by the ghosts of “what if?” and “if only…”.
May they find and focus on that which is positive and hope-filled and which dissolves regrets and unrealised dreams.
Resource them so that they may find the way to forgive anything that needs forgiving and to receive and accept forgiveness which they need.
Grant them wisdom and courage to know when and how to ask for help and support from those who care.
Insulate them from the inevitable well-meaning tritisms and platitudes which might be offered, but which are too often unhelpful and come from an ignorance of the struggles of deep grief.
Bring alongside them people of care and compassion who are equipped with the resilience and wisdom for the long journey of the grieving.
Be with them so that they might know your presence, comfort and love and find in you the way forward to healing and life.
Bring us the knowledge and will to be your hands of help if and when we can.
This we ask.
Amen.
(Source: Jon Humphries)

You will know
the moment of its
arriving
by your release
of the breath
you have held
so long;
a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
a thinning
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
around you.

This blessing
does not mean
to take the night away
but it knows
its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots
along the path,
knows what it means
to travel
in the company
of a friend.

So when
this blessing comes,
take its hand.
Get up.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.

This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.
(Source: Jan Richardson)

This was written by Rohan Pryor in response to the tragic deaths at Dreamworld in October 2016 (Queensland). The reflections may also be shared at other times, perhaps with the lighter text deleted or adapted. 

Lives cut short
A nightmare this week at the ironically named Dreamworld
claims four who were out for a day of fun and thrills;
a caring soul trying to help another get his life on track
loses her own life after a senseless attack;
countless and nameless, myriad other lives are cut short
before their abundance of life can be lived to the full.
There’s no sense to be made of a life cut so short,
no eternal purpose or universal will to the ending;
none, at least, I can fathom without recoil
from projected platitudes or power wielded cruel.
There’s no sense to be made, yet sense we make
for sense-making creatures we humans beings are:
sense-seeking missiles through the cold arc of life
huddled on a watery planet, seeking the joy of life
or simple survival while life still pulses or wanes.
The sense is in life itself, lived while yet we have breath:
clustered or lonely, embittered or enraptured,
watching the far flung fires of the cosmos
that light the night sky, pin-prick pointers to a scale
beyond most capacity to grasp, so far
beyond a petty god with a petty agenda of sins.
The sense is in life lived abundantly, and shared,
more 10:10 than 3:16 in John’s cosmic view,
lived as companions in life, loving and sharing
more than selfish scrabbling for all we can own.
Good God, bring us to our senses, to life as a gift.
A gift beyond price, is life to each being,
and all that we can do we must to protect
the fragile life each one carries and shares,
not in self-ish defence but in abundance shared.
If each felt as gift, and was treasured among all,
what new life might be possible, life in abundance!
Abundant life: the eternity of life lived in each moment,
not lived for some cloudy future beyond pearly gates,
but here and now, each moment a treasure, a gift,
a chance to enrich through encouragement and service.
Mourning those now gone, lives cut short, what can I do
but live eternal life here and now, God help me, anew.
(Source: Rohan Pryor, 28 Oct 2016For Amanda Dawson, the Dreamworld four, and Rachel Millen, and so many others including my Dad, Robin Pryor)

About admin

Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon) in placement at Pilgrim Uniting Church, in Adelaide CBD (12 Flinders St). This blog is mainly to resource worship planners for our services, but of course may be useful for others. We have some great writers of music, words for hymns and liturgy at Pilgrim, so this blog also includes their words.

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