PIQUA — A number of the downtown churches are getting together this month to host a Blue Christmas service to recognize the difficulties and struggles that people may have gone through this past year.
The Blue Christmas service will be held at St. James Episcopal Church, located at 200 High St. in Piqua, on Sunday, Dec. 16, at 4 p.m.
The service will also involve other neighborhood churches, including Westminster Presbyterian Church, Greene Street United Methodist Church, and St. Paul’s Evangelical and Reformed Church.
Pastor Todd Allen of Westminster Presbyterian Church approached the other neighborhood churches with this idea and said that he first learned of Blue Christmas services, also referred to as Longest Night services, when he was the pastor of a church in Minnesota. He said that his church there had a “wonderful response to it.”
Blue Christmas looks at the Christmas story from a different perspective, Allen said.
“The Christmas story’s not all warm and fuzzy at times,” he said.
Allen said that the Christmas story also involved Mary and Joseph facing socioeconomic struggles along with their own strained relationship at times. “They also live in a territory that is occupied by the Romans,” he said.
Allen added that, in the Christmas story, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus become like refugees and flee to Egypt when Herod, the Roman client king of Judea, seeks to kill Jesus and later orders that boys under 2 years of age be killed. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus only return after Herod is dead, and they go to live in Nazareth.
Allen said that others can relate to the struggles faced in and after the Christmas story.
“These are people like us,” he said. He said that those struggling — who may have lost a job, a loved one, or a marriage — can still connect to the Christmas story and may find healing through this Blue Christmas service.
“As Christians, we believe that while there is sadness, loss (and), pain in the world … we believe God is both in the midst of that pain and that God also works to transform situations of pain, of hopelessness, of frustration, into times of renewed health, purpose, and joy,” Allen said.
“One of my favorite Scriptures of this season comes from Isaiah 40, where we read that God says, ‘Comfort, comfort my people; tell my people that their time of suffering is ended.’ When these words were spoken, the people of God had been forcibly taken from their country and were living in a foreign country, filled with everyday dangers to their lives. This captivity, however, was soon to end, and God would accomplish it. I cherish this passage because it reminds me that God’s will for all human beings is one of health and wholeness, of new possibilities, even new life.”
The goal of the Blue Christmas service is provide a reminder of that message of the Christian faith as well as comfort and possible healing, according to Allen. The service will include lighting candles in memory of loved ones people have lost, in memory of job loss or loss of health, in memory of one’s personal situation, and another as a reminder of one’s faith in God. The service will also include responsive readings and Christmas carols. All are welcome to attend.
“It’s a very personal type of service,” Allen said.
Allen said that, at a church he was a pastor at in Anchorage, Alaska, he used to the Blue Christmas service model to help provided healing toward a large split in the congregation. Allen suggested that this service could help address the political divide happening on the national level by forming a community.
“I think we’re all sharing a lot of concerns,” Allen said.
He shared hopes that this service could help bring people together. “We find more things we have in common,” he said.
Allen said that he hoped this Blue Christmas service will become a tradition for the neighborhood churches in the area.
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org