Christmas is not the “season to be jolly” for many people. Joy to the world (to say nothing of bedecked halls and partridges in the orchard) is not part of everyone’s idea of how to commemorate Christ’s birth. After a year of COVID-19, the discovery of over a thousand unmarked graves of Indigenous children at Canadian residential schools, political meltdown, mass shootings, broken marriages, public figures who can’t seem to find a way to tell the truth, and an opioid crisis, it is with good reason that many communities hold Blue Christmas or Longest Night services.
Except during the twelve days of Christmas (only one of which most of us observe), what we think of the Christmas season perhaps ought to be much more blue than green, red, and white. After all, Christmas is preceded in the Christian liturgical calendar by Advent: forty days of preparation for the coming of a king—days to be marked by repentance, a healthy introspection, and a serious look at our world’s situation.
For those of us not experiencing major problems or tragedies, having a singular Blue Christmas service doesn’t seem to do enough to show our solidarity with those who are suffering. Lament and confession, as well as hope and longing, should be the norm during Advent. Should we thus have four Sundays of Blue and then one of Christmas? Maybe so. Because Advent is preceded by Christ the King Sunday, the long distance between the “now”and the “not yet” ought to naturally bring with it a look at what’s wrong in our lives—personally, communally, and globally.
If you do plan a special Blue Christmas service, I suggest tailoring one of the various liturgies already available, including those from Reformed Worship (search “Blue Christmas” and “Longest Night” at ReformedWorship.org), to your own congregational setting, perhaps keeping your community’s pastoral needs at the forefront. Or consider one or more of the following collections of suggested songs, psalms, and readings that could be adapted to fit within an established order of worship or liturgy, blue or not.
If part of the service is about the “blue” year in international relations or politics, or about failed leadership in the church.
- Song: “For the Healing of the Nations” Kaan, LUYH 289, GtG 346, WR 621
- Psalm 37 arranged for a responsive reading:
Reader 1: vs. 1–2
Congregation: vs. 3–4
Reader 2: vs. 5–17
Congregation: vs. 3–4
Reader 1: vs. 18–19, 23–24
Sung interlude: “Wait for the Lord” Taizé, LUYH 480, Gtg 90, SSS 580
Alternate the following sections between two voices: vs. 25–26, 27–28a, 28b–29, 30–31, 32–33, 34, 35–36, 37–38, 39–40
Congregation: vs. 5–6
- Song: “My Soul Cries Out with a Joyful Shout (Luke 1:46–55)” Cooney, LUYH 69, GtG 100, SSS 68
For those who are plagued by illnesses.
- Psalm 38 as a sung prayer (e.g., “Rebuke Me Not in Anger, LORD” Otte, LUYH 150, PfAS 38A, PsH 38). Make sure Psalm 38:3 isn’t taken in isolation by including a passage like Psalm 103:8–13, 17–18.
- Song: “O Christ the Healer, We Have Come” Green, GtG 793, WR 638
For a general introduction to laments, pain, and sorrow.
- Medley: WAYFARING STRANGER Traditional, music in LUYH 55, GtG 437, SSS 32
followed by “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me” Spiritual, LUYH 140, GtG 775, SSS 135 (both in C minor)
- Song: “Hear My Cry, O God, and Save Me (Psalm 77)” Morgan, LUYH 893, GtG 781, PfAS 77A
- Poem: “I Wake and Feel the Fell of Dark, Not Day” by Gerald Manley Hopkins
- Song: “I Worship You, O LORD (Psalm 30)” Seddon, Seerveld, LUYH 668, PfAS 30A, PsH 30