Carol Hallman: Blue Christmas service
Community Service of Light and Hope, Dec. 6 at 6:30 p.m.
“By the rivers of Babylon— there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.
2 On the willows there we hung up our harps.3 For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”4 How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?”
These words from Psalm 137 don’t seem very festive, not in the midst of the carols proclaiming, “joy to the world,” “have a holly jolly Christmas” and “everyone telling you be of good cheer.” What about those who don’t feel that it’s the “hap-happiest season of all?”
For many people this time of year is especially difficult. Yes there are those, whom I am sure we all know, for whom this season is indeed “the most wonderful time of the year” but for many it brings a mix of emotions. There’s a dissonance as the “all is shiny and bright” comes up against the hard realities of life. It’s hard to be “jolly” when you are struggling with the pain of grief and loss in your heart.
Maybe this is the first Christmas without your mother, father, sibling, spouse, or child. Maybe you are still in shock with the news overload about the bombings in Paris and Beirut. Maybe it’s been month and months and that new job still hasn’t been found, meanwhile the bills keep piling up and now you have to figure out how to provide gifts for the children. Maybe you are estranged from those you love because of your choices or theirs. Maybe you are struggling with depression or physical illness. Maybe you are just feeling especially disconnected and distant from God. Maybe Psalm 137 is a better fit than “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.” (Luke 2:20)
Advent and Christmas can be a very bittersweet time of year. After all, there is indeed much joy to be found in the story of Christmas in our Bibles, but there’s also the reality that Jesus was born into a world of struggle. Herod ruled with iron fist, Rome was in charge and people even than were hoping for something or someone to come and change things. They were hoping for the Messiah.
Perhaps the part of the story that can speak to us who are struggling with this season is the deeper message that God meets us where we are, whether that is in our grief, or in our fear, or in our feelings of disconnectedness. This part of the story offers light and hope in the midst of our darkness. This light and hope is a message so many of us need to hear. It is a story of God’s love for each and every one of us. It is a story that reminds us that while we may feel lost and alone God is ever present. It is a story that new life is possible. It is a story that reminds us that we are not alone.
Several of the downtown church churches recognize that many are struggling this season and so we are offering a Community Service of Light and Hope that will take place on Dec. 6 at 6:30 p.m. at First United Church of Christ on the corner of W. Horah and Church streets. Participating churches include Soldiers Memorial, St. John’s Lutheran, St. Luke’s Episcopal, First Presbyterian, First United Methodist Church and First United Church of Christ.
This will be an opportunity to come to a safe place, to acknowledge our pain, and be compassionately present for others who are also finding this season especially difficult. For more information please contact a participating church.
Carol Hallman is resident minister at First UCC, 207 W. Horah St.