What if the Christmas celebrations are not ‘for you‘ this year? The anniversary of a loved one passing on still brings tears, or that it is so difficult to keep up with the demands of ‘buy, buy, buy’, or you just want to withdraw from everything as ‘you feel worthless’.
The Blue Christmas time of reflection
is for you.
This is the church meeting your needs, not imposing a service on you.
Although this time was earlier today (Saturday 7th December), we have set it out here so you yourself can spend time, alone if necessary, and reflect, to pause, and to know that you are loved.
It’s a ‘blue’ time for some. Hence the tree and the lights. We didn’t ask people to stand or sing, but to reflect, to give themselves time to think – we may all appreciate such time to think.
We welcome you to our Blue Christmas service, a service that has been put together especially for those of us who are not feeling particularly merry and bright right now.
For some we have heard the adverts for Christmas, the John Lewis advert perhaps, for many weeks and it has brought not anticipated joy, but memories reoccur – and we are not sure what we may do with them.
For some, the jingles and the tinsel are messages which mean that we have to spend and spend – and we feel that there is more than just presents and money to this season. For others, Christmas is a time when we are just not sure what to think: anniversaries from the past flitter by, some linger.
We hope that you’ll find this a safe place to be transparent with yourself, and I believe with God, a safe place to admit that maybe you’re not ok at the moment, that maybe what you’re really feeling is possibly sad, discouraged, or even angry – that’s ok, really. It is.
A place for you to be real with your struggles and your questions.
There’ll be a variety of music to listen to but we won’t need to sing, there’ll be a reading from the Bible, and a short message. There’s no compulsion, no obligation to do anything – just reflect and take it all in. We’ll light some candles and spend time in prayer and silent reflection. For some, prayer and if God is not something you associate with, then when prayer is mentioned, we can focus upon aspirations, for together we have hope. We are together here.
Spirit of mercy and love,
we gather here today as those who bring their pain,
their sorrow and their confusion at this Christmas time to this safe space this afternoon.
Would you meet us in our darkness, and give us freedom to struggle together as we seek your presence.
We ask for peace for the past, strength for today, and courage for tomorrow.
1 Corinthians 13
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogantor rude.
It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends…
We reflect on these attributes of our life.
We wish we had more time.
We wish we could have hoped more.
We fear Death.
But we long for Love.
In all these we could have loved for longer,
spent more time doing the things we enjoyed, and possibly faced up to death earlier.
Time is an entity that never stops, we can never halt it, despite the best efforts of the cosmetic industry. It keeps ticking and we can worry over the moments that we now consider that we had wasted – but we didn’t then. As we reflect on those times, can we take them back, reverse the clock and change our ways?
Then why do we struggle and try?
We can be released from that burden, those shackles of the past.
So we light our first candle which acknowledges time. It’s green, relating to the green seen in nature: nature which does not need a watch – it knows the time. It will burn the longest but we walk alongside it, not needing to count each flicker now. We accept its radiance, its presence.
We see the blue and white in the picture above. It seems so clear that it is either blue or white, but life is very different – perhaps not 50 shades but definitely technicolour. Do we feel drawn to one side over the other? Do we need to exist in the light always?
There is hope. It may fade at times, difficult to distinguish. Hope in others, hope in ourselves. Hope in that while we may feel that everyone has everything except us, there is more than material items, more than presents around the tree. And like the candle it may flicker ..but it emerges, it fills the room with light, as our heart can be filled with hope. It reaches out, constantly seeking, ever …hopeful.
We light our second candle, blue in colour, highlighting hope. It shines. Perhaps it could be like a lighthouse, its beam shining bright, helping us find our way. Let’s pause as we reflect upon the remnants of hope within us, and note how the light enables us to see all of the fragments – which could be collected together. What joy there could be with so much hope.
What of Death, which can haunt us. Society has banished death to never be spoken, never mentioned. Therefore, when it occurs it strikes us.…hard. The Cross which adorns many churches is a symbol of the love of God, even at Death. We don’t believe that
…death is that final step but it is analogous to us being on a bus journey, where death is but a bus stop on our journey in life – it most certainly is not the bus station.
There is more to life afterwards. This is what brings hope.
We light the third candle which speaks of death, not in fear, but to accept that possibly now it does not hold fear to us, but we may see hope. It is not black in colour, because it offers still hope. It is maroon, showing that love is still entwined. It shows hope for those who have gone before, hope for those who are struggling today, here now, and hope for ourselves today and in the future.
What of our last candle?
Love can be felt, experienced wherever, whenever. It can be evident in those times when we, when looking back, appear so sad: our vision possibly diminished by what we thought may have occurred – when possibly love was always there.
A quote from the film ‘Collateral Beauty’ where the character who portrays love responds to a Father, beside himself with the loss of his child. Love is there, in the dark times as well as the good times.
From my perspective, that lady could have portrayed God. In this moment of great sadness, there was God, not running away, not shielded, but standing with us, crying with us, holding us.
Our sadness at that time may have obscured our view – as when we cry out we do not notice the love in the eyes of the one who holds us.
We light our fourth candle of love, deep red. We recall of that love from others, the love that is deep within us and, I hope, we can feel that love of God now and always.
It stands alone, central, and tall. That which might arise amidst all of those times, when we feel that we lost hope and fear death.
Love is always present…Love never ends
In the Christmas story there are all of these attributes. The time of waiting for the birth, the hope that this child, Jesus, would bring hope to us, that a gift, for one of the presents at Christmas was not wrapped in shiny paper and encased the latest technological wizardry, but the gift from the wise men of myrrh – showed that death was never far away, but ultimately in that baby was seen love. For Jesus showed unconditional love – not tolerance, not acceptance of others but unconditional welcome.
Perhaps we can this Christmas, realise that we are amazing, without the need for expensive materialistic gifts or despite emotional set backs we can look at ourselves and note that we have everything we need, and we are loved.
Oh Creator, be with us in our darkness.
Make your face shine upon us and give us peace, peace that remains. We pray that you’d be at work within us, all of us who are gathered here today, and on this blog, may you comfort us, may you sustain us, may you remind us of your constant love for us.
We trust this time of listening to you and ask you to open our hearts and our minds to whatever it is that we need to hear from you today.
A new Christmas season is upon us, well mince pies have been on sale since June…
We blue lights and the darkened room have been set so you may shine.
We can acknowledge the pain of past or present circumstances, but we can acknowledge through the lighting of the candles that we accept that time can pass, that we may struggle with hope, but it is present within us, that we may not need to fear death, but that love is central to our lives.
We have also seen that we can be authentic, allow people to see us as we are, not with a mask, but as we truly are.
Christmas is a day upon which people celebrate, but God is with us everyday, and it is actually in reality just another day.
Don’t listen to the pressure to be happy from others.
We can go easy on ourselves, we needn’t listen to the pressure to be “externally” happy.
We can balance that desire to feel part of the season with our valid need to protect ourselves. To look after ourselves, to take ‘time out’ so we can dictate the pace of life, that we can have time to reflect on our hope, that we can feel that love. What may be comforting to you now is that God loves you, is with you, alongside you, desiring to walk this journey with you, for all time.
If you’d like to do so, why not light a candle to represent whatever pain and loss you’re experiencing most strongly today, and as you light it ask for God’s help to keep on trusting, in the middle of whatever’s going on around you. We are, in some ways, taking that pain and placing it here with the candle, not wishing to take it back up.
Those that attended the service also were offered a blue glass heart, one they could take home to acknowledge that they had recognised how time can impact upon our lives, how hope may be still there, and how death may not be feared – but, ultimately, that they are loved….as you are.
and as we leave this space, wherever you are…
May God give you…
For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends,
A faithful friend to share love,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer.
Healthy Minds are providing some Grief and Loss sessions this month in Todmorden and elsewhere. Please take that time for yourself, if needed, to allow yourself to grieve, to accept, to walk forward.