This time last December 13, I crafted two prayers for Church Health Reader’s winter edition featuring Blue Christmas and Longest Night Services while I sat in a surgical waiting room. My mom had a liter of fluid in her right lung, so a surgical oncologist inserted a chest tube to remove the fluid. This is a fairly routine surgery, ergo none of us were prepared for December 13 being the first day of the last month of her life. What followed the successful chest tube surgery was a cancer cascade of complications, which made the waiting of Advent and the need for an incarnational, tangible, Word Made Flesh kind of God as vital as our next breath.
I wrote about Blue Christmas not knowing this December I’d be attending Blue Christmas services instead of planning them. I also had no clue that on this December 13 morning, I’d be haunted by my own words from last year’s prayers.
Blue Christmas and Longest Night services are safe spaces to grieve, not be so merry, and request healing and wholeness. I find them vital as a chaplain and pastor as well as someone who grieves. I love the authenticity of Blue Christmas services as people gather together to express the need for God to be with us as we travel to Bethlehem with exhaustion, pain, confusion, and even skepticism. In many ways, I think Blue Christmas services are the most appropriate worship services of the Advent Season.
During Advent, many congregations use the color blue to represent various aspects of the season of waiting and expecting the birth of Jesus. Blue is the color of the sky just before the sun rises in the east to announce the dawning of another day. Blue calls us to pay attention, as many of us miss that deep blue blanket each morning due to literally being asleep or not alert enough to pay attention. As we wait with Mary in the last four weeks of her pregnancy, the blue of Advent says “Stay awake. Keep watch. Expect new life. Pay attention.”
I celebrate Blue Advent and await the birth of the infant whose light will always shine in the darkest night of grief or pain. I wait for all mental and physical diseases to be cured. I wait for violence to cease. I wait for all children to be fed. I wait for all relationships to have reconciliation. I wait for death itself to be no more. I expect Christmas.
Blue Christmas & Longest Night Service Prayers, December 13, 2012
One: God of the Incarnation, hear our prayers:
Many: For those who cannot bring themselves to sing with the choirs of angels this year
One: For those for whom there is still no room in any inn or shelter
Many: For those who long for the angel to appear in their dreams instead of the flashbacks
One: For those who have no one with them when they give birth
Many: For those whose wombs are barren
One: For those who will spend only a portion of Christmas with their children due to divorce
Many: For those who will make their Mom’s recipes and remember Christmases past
One: For those whose adult children do not communicate with them
Many: For those recovering from addictions of the flesh
One: For those who cannot buy their children presents due to unemployment
Many: For those who will spend Christmas grieving the loss of their child
One: For those who will spend Christmas in the hospital, nursing home, or rehabilitation center
Many: For those who long for their minds to be calm and for memories to return
One: For those who long for their bodies to be restored
Many: For those who cannot even give words to their darkness and pain
One: Send the star, again, O God, and light our way to the manger of peace. Amen.
God of the shepherds, wise men, teenage mother, and faithful fiancé, be born in us today. Our lives and our hearts are still broken, God, and we need you to invade time and space once more. We need to hear the angels singing of good tidings for all people. We need to hold on to our memories and quiet all voices in our minds but your own. Remind us of the hope-filled future you have for us. Show us what it feels like to be at peace. Give us courage to experience joy. Overwhelm us with the power of Your unconditional love. Comfort your people, O God. Comfort your people. In the name of the infant who promises that the darkness has not and will not ever overcome the light, we pray, Amen.