I struggle with Christmas because I typically let the commercialization of the holiday effect my mood negatively, thereby robbing me of the joy of celebrating the wonder of Advent. Others truly struggle with it for far more real reasons.
In order to help those who struggle in different ways, the elders of Redeemer Fellowship (where I pastor) were approached by a member of our congregation about doing a "Blue Christmas" service. What follows is my interview with Krista Brennfoerder, the woman who brought us this idea and what we intend to do with it.
What do you do?
I’m a licensed clinical professional counselor at Centennial Counseling in St. Charles, IL.
What is “Blue Christmas”? It’s a service where you can come and be where you are. It’s a service to come and grieve whatever losses you’ve had that year and prepare for how hard Christmas will be this year. If you’re missing someone this year, or have a spouse overseas, or a divorce and you don’t have the kids, whatever it may be; just to ready your heart for that and find hope in the Gospel and what Christmas really means.
Where did this idea come from?
I don’t actually know where Blue Christmas originated. It’s something for people who are struggling during Christmas time, people who most of us don’t think of. People who feel like they have to put on a happy face.
Why Christmas time?
For counselors, we know Christmas time can be the hardest time of year for people. It’s also the time of year where people who are hurting get ignored the most by those who want to remain in a happy mood.
What’s the value? Why is it important?
Because, sometimes, the church is seen as a place where you are told how to feel or told what to do. To be a church that creates a space for people to grieve, to show that suffering is real and people aren’t always happy. It says to our church community, “it’s ok to be broken” and; to the wider community, “We are a place that it’s ok to be where you are, at anytime.
Why do people hide where they are at?
Our society doesn’t really like grief and suffering and we want to rush people through it. It’s pressure to not show weakness. Some people feel they have to hide that to be strong, when it’s really the opposite. It takes more strength to show that, to feel that; than it does to run away from it.
We are doing this service Dec. 5th. What’s the format of the service?
The whole idea is to be where you are, so you come in and there will be some sort of welcome, then worship, scripture reading, then David Sommer (a local pastor and biblical counselor) will share from his experience, and then there’s an open mic where people can share about their losses this year if they want, followed up with a time of refreshments.
What am I forgetting? Anything else you'd like to share?
One question some people get is who should come to this? You don’t have to have lost someone to come. It’s one of my favorite things of the year and I haven’t necessarily lost anyone this year. But it does give me space to remember people I have lost. I would especially encourage anyone who has experiencedany kind of loss to come. Anything that makes Christmas a difficult time. We could also use people who haven’t experienced loss to be there for the people who have, to pray for them.
How should someone prepare for this?
The way to prepare is to not be rushing. Even getting there 10 minutes early so you can be quiet and still.
How are you supporting those (within and those outside your community) who struggle with this time of year? Are you keeping your distance, afraid their grief will somehow rub off on you? Or are you sharing their grief with the hope of Jesus?