Blue Christmas/Longest Night Services

Hi Cookies!

Just a check-in. I am participating in a Blue Christmas/Longest Night Service tomorrow night and am looking forward to the quiet and healing in the midst of the bitter cold. This has been a lickety split Advent for me and while it has not been a depressing one, it has lacked sufficient time for reflection and reverence. I don’t like when that happens, but given the demands of a new ministry in a new home, I accept that it does. One of the ways I avoid burn-out is by not expecting every season to be as deep as every other one that has ever gone before. This Christmas I am not even putting up a tree. I am still unpacking boxes, so decorating seemed like just too much.

I am aware, as I am sure those of you in parish ministry are, of the special pastoral sadnesses that we carry with our communities during the holidays. We get more calls for counseling, we preach more on loneliness and family dysfunction, and the human need for Love to be born among us. For me as a single woman, I find myself feeling strangely bruised by all the messages I get about single people this time of year, how we must all be longing for a mate, for that diamond under the tree, for someone who will go home for the holidays with us.

I don’t feel that way at ALL, which perversely makes me feel like a double dose of weirdo.

Anyway, if you’re preparing for a Blue Christmas service, holla. What are you planning, basically? How do you feel about it? Are you going to wear anything different that communicates a more pastoral kind of presence than your usual Sunday garb? I’m curious. Let’s pull up a chair and SHARE.

8 Replies to “Blue Christmas/Longest Night Services”

  1. I’ve done one of these for more than a decade now (Wow!). It’s evolved over the years. This year I start with a welcome and the carol “I Wonder as I Wander”. I basically try to acknowledge all the life issues that may feel harder than usual at this time of year: loss of a loved one, depression, job loss, addictions, feeling like we don’t measure up because we don’t have a “Hallmark Christmas” — I connect the feelings to biblical passages and do a brief (2 paragraph) reflection on each one followed by a brief prayer and a verse of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Sometimes the congregation is invited to sing, sometimes I have someone sing it as a solo. Then there’s a time for lighting candles and focusing on what I believe is the truth of the Gospel — that it was exactly for those of us who are/feel like the lost, the outsiders, the bereaved, the powerless that Christ came. We sing It Came Upon a Midnight Clear and an affirmation based on Madeline L’Engle’s _The Irrational Season_. I have the musician play Silent Night, but I don’t ask them to sing it — it’s too loaded emotionally with its constant use in the cultural Christmas.

    Afterwards we have a time for conversation and light refreshments. I use snow men or snow flakes or something else that suggests Christmas but doesn’t clobber you with it.

    I’ve had very small turnouts for this service, but every year I’ve had at least one person there who really needed that affirmation of where he/she was in his/her life. One colleague says she thinks it makes people feel more like an outsider, like “I’m so weird I even have to have a different service” but I work real hard to make it an affirmation of where people are and to simply say, “this is for you, too, especially for you.”

  2. Oh, yeah, I wear street clothes — professional and restrained, but not somber. I have a black knit surplice dress that I like to wear with a scarf or a piece of bright/shiny jewelry,

  3. I wear clericals but that is what is expected in our tradition – with a white alb and a seasonal stole (we have liturgical seasonal colors – blue or purple in Advent) or just civvies. When I do Blue Christmas/Longest Night – I alternate music and readings – not much singing as it is hard to sing sometimes. A cello and flute are nice. Readings that acknowledge what people may be feeling – and some hopeful things. Good ideas here and here (in comments).

  4. I have never heard of this tradition! It sounds like a most excellent idea.

  5. We’ve done Longest Night for about seven years now. It is a wonderful outreach to the community. Often, there is more folks from outside our congregation that come than from within! Simple is best for this service. Some simple taize chants for those who want to sing. Opening prayer and benediction. Scriptures on light. Candlelighting. And that’s it. Oh, and lots of silence, and a welcoming person in the back to pray with if needed. I like to wear black with a jewel-toned purple and blue scarf. We don’t do stoles in the Mennonite tradition, but I always wish we did, so I invoke scarves…

  6. Also a Mennonite here and I’m just winding down from our Longest Night Service this evening. We’ve been holding it for about seven years also. Our service includes poetry, an abundance of Taize-like music/singing, silence, several sets of scripture, the lighting of the Advent/Christ candles, and an opportunity to light candles “for” something or someone. We have 2-3 dozen in attendance, and like @susanp says, there’s always 1 or 2 for whom it was especially poignant that they could be there. Our order of service was included in a denominational _Words of Worship 2_ book a few years ago. It can be found at http://www.amazon.com/Words-Worship-Dianne-Zaerr-Brenneman/dp/083619473X or contact me by email (jane@normalmennonite.org). I am more than happy to share it with anyone. I happen to think it is one of the most important worship moments of the entire year — not in a size-of-the-crowd sense, but definitely in the size-of-the-need.

  7. Your ideas sound lovely, everyone! It doesn’t seem to be a common idea in England (where I live) or New Zealand (where I’m from), but an Anglican Advent has a fair bit of the darker side of life built in i.e. readings including Herod killing the babies, the stoning of Stephen after Christmas and there’s always confession of sins and prayers for the world and those in need.

  8. Just did my first Blue Christmas last week, with a clergy friend. Lots of candles, quiet piano music, a few longing hymns, a very peaceful service–and a number of our people really needed it. (Wish it had been around when I was grieving my husband!)
    Oh, and George and I both wore albs. I work in a very rural setting, where my folks are uncomfortable with formality and I don’t wear a robe, but it was just right this time.

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