William Boyle shares his experience of the value of offering a Christmas service for the bereaved.
I first came across a Blue Christmas service during my time as a student minister. I liked it very much and felt it really supported those who attended. It gives time, place and space to remember loved ones we have shared Christmas with in the past; those who may have died in recent months or a long time ago.
Christmas can be a difficult time for those who are bereaved, so we give time to reflect, remember and give thanks to God for those who have enriched each of our lives and continue to mean so much.
I invite all the families whose loved ones I have conducted funerals for in the year, but it is also open to anyone in the congregation and wider community.
During the short service, there is time to be still, reflect, pray, hear words of scripture and sing. There is also a point when everyone is invited out to add their loved one’s name to a prayer tree and take with them a candle which they can light on Christmas day.
Everything is aimed at bringing hope to the listener. The Bible is full of stories that mirror our experience of grief and loss. It can remind us that when the dark night is over, the sun always rises; there is always the promise of restoration and hope. We are reminded that God will listen to our thoughts and prayers, no matter how angry, disappointed, or sad we feel. We might not always get the answers that we want, but God ultimately will listen and will respond.
Some people who come to the service aren’t particularly religious but still find this service of comfort and support. The hope is that their time with us perhaps might plant that small seed that God can then grow and develop. The words that they hear might bring them the hope they crave. The most important thing is that anyone can walk through our door and feel they have a space to lament.
After the service people are invited to join us for tea and coffee or spend more time in the Sanctuary, in the silence. The offer of support from myself and the congregation is also given so that the people who attend know that they are not alone, we are there for them beyond a service. We all need people who will hear our lament and let us sit with the sorrow.