It's hard to believe that our Blue Christmas service was less than a week ago. It wasn't something I would have been up to in the previous two years, but this year it felt just right ~ to suggest, to help plan, and to lead.
We created a simple service, based upon a liturgy we found online: Isaiah Advent readings alternating with the O Antiphons in the form of the verses of O Come, O Come Emmanuel, with a candle-lighting in which everyone was invited to participate. There were other prayers and readings and music, but I think that people were most moved by the quiet candle-lighting and the haunting verses cantored in a beautiful soprano voice.
Simple though it was, it was also a tremendous amount of work, and as we put it all together, I observed the process from the point of view of a hoping-to-be-called-pastor. I hope as well that someday I will be capable of exercising the kind of leadership that the pastors of my home church have, leadership that calls forth and supports the gifts of so many others in the congregation. Music director as organist, choir member as cantor, chair of worship ministry as co-planner and with another member that committee, designer of beautiful space, several other members as readers ~ and we all worked seamlessly together.
Insofar as the service itself was concerned, I had little sense of it from a participant's standpoint, but the emails that came afterward tell me that it was a great success. One of the readers said that she had been skeptical of a service devoted to sadness, but that afterward she felt freed up to engage in the remainder of the week. I realized that I felt much the same way. Something of a transformation for those of us for whom the Christmas season has been something to endure rather than to celebrate! Many others seemed relieved and even grateful for a place in which all those emotions which are generally deemed unacceptable, especially at this time of year, were articulated aloud.
I opened the service with some very brief remarks about the lunar eclipse that would take place a few hours later, saying that all of us there were like the moon: living in a circle of darkness and yet, whether we could see it or not, surrounded by a rim of light, a light that the darkness does not overcome.
And I think that we were indeed a little circle of insistent light, creative and hopeful in the face of the darkness of loss.