The Shadow Side of Christmas

On Thursday, December 21, a Longest Night worship service will be held at 7:00 p.m. in the Sanctuary. In some churches, this service is known as “Blue Christmas.” For many people, Christmas is a mixed bag. Messages of hope and joy contrast with experiences of sorrow and despair. Idealized images of family rub salt in the wounds of real human relationships. We look around and see how the world still falls short of God’s Kingdom come.

For people grieving, Elvis’ rendition of “Blue Christmas” is the carol that rings true:

“I'll have a Blue Christmas without you
I'll be so blue just thinking about you
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree
Won't be the same dear, if you're not here with me.”

And yet, these are the experiences that help us understand what Christmas is all about. These are the conditions into which Christ himself was born. This is kind of life that Jesus chose: to dwell with those who are poor and poor of spirit, to comfort the sad and reclaim the lost, to encourage and exhort, and walk with us along life’s path – not only to be with us, but to be one of us. He did not escape suffering any more than we do. In fact, Jesus suffered more than most of us, and to my mind, that only makes his message all the more meaningful; it makes his life all the more credible.

On the longest night, we do not deny or look away from suffering. But neither do we let it defeat us. We light candles, sing and pray. We draw near to one another. We take heart and we declare the ancient creed: Christ is born! Christ has come! Christ will come again! It’s a creed that is all the more credible when it comes from the lips of those who dwell in the shadow side of Christmas.

Come, be lifted up and let your heart find solace as we worship together on this longest winter night.