Not every Christmas is Turkey and Tinsel. This year, we hoped that we could say that the Covid-19 pandemic was over. We hoped to be able to meet freely with friends and family and put it all behind us. Some of us are busy making plans and buying gifts. But for some it is impossible to find jollity in the season to be jolly. While everyone around is carolling and raising a glass of good cheer. Whilst the lights are twinkling and bells are ringing. Whilst mince pies, and stollen, and Christmas pudding and cake are being consumed with gusto, there are many hearts that are hurting.
Christmas can be a difficult time for those who have lost a loved one, or who are lonely, or struggling with any kind of pain or loss. As we look around, everything tells us that it’s not right to be sad at this time of year. But the truth is – some of us are. And much as we may want to join in the festivities, our heart is really not in it – even if we recognise the significance and underpinning joy of the season. It’s almost as though the darkness of the winter evenings invades our very soul.
Reflective services, special prayers or a ‘Longest Night/Blue Christmas’ liturgy can be helpful for those who find Christmas painful, who feel ‘blue’, for those still suffering the pain of bereavement or other hurts. Services like this provide an opportunity for people to hear not about the baby in the manger, who can be dismissed as irrelevant, but about the God of love who comes to us in the midst of the mess and pain we know in our own everyday lives and the lives of those around us.
Whilst the usual celebrations of Jesus’ birth will rightly still take place, we want to recognise the struggles that many face at this time of year by offering some links to special services of reflection and comfort that we recommend, as well as activities to support our communities in their remembering.
Let’s not forget that the Christmas story is not just one of the joyous birth of a son and our Saviour. It’s also the story of a young, pregnant, unwed girl. Of a carpenter engaged to someone with child, but not his. It’s a story of a birth in a stable surrounded by dirt, and noise and smells, with no family or medical team alongside to help. It’s the story of a mother, father and their baby becoming refugees to flee a murderous King. There is room in that stable for sorrow as well as joy. Jesus said: ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.’
As we wait in anticipation of your coming, Lord Jesus,
And we gather together with joy,
let us remember those for whom Christmas this year will be painful:
those who cannot celebrate because of financial difficulty or life’s uncertainties,
those who will spend the time alone,
those who will be in hospital or are ill,
and those who will miss loved ones they’re unable to see.
We pray especially for people who have been bereaved,
for whom the happy, family times can be a distressing reminder of their loss.
Jesus, Emmanuel, come and be with us.
God of all comfort, send us your Peace.
A prayer to have available for visitors to use in private prayer
God of love, surround all those I love, especially those I can no longer see. Be light for me this Christmas, be hope in my sadness, be love in every moment and give me courage for each day ahead.
Small gifts/giveaways to consider: