Grace’s Not-So-“Blue” Advent Vespers

At this time of year, many churches offer what is usually called a “Blue Christmas” service, for those who are experiencing depression, grief, anniversary of a death, or otherwise not feeling like Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year.” It’s called a “Blue Christmas” service, I assume, because of the song “I’ll Have a Blue Christmas Without You.”
My confession is that I really, really dislike this name for this kind of service, and I also tend to dislike the way they are done. So many people must re-confront their losses at the holidays; this is not “feeling blue.” This is called grieving. Also, the services of this name that I have attended or read the liturgies of often seem to lay it on pretty thick: prayer after wordy prayer naming every kind of possible loss someone might feel. One service like this I attended a few years ago left me feeling far worse than when I arrived! I don’t think that what those facing loss want is for a worship leader to name their pain in prayer and music over and over again.
Lacking any models for this service that I would actually want to attend, a few years ago I thought, “What kind of service would I want, if I was carrying a heavy emotional load this time of year?” I decided that I would want 1) beautiful music 2) silence in a sacred space 3) a simple ritual and 4) quiet solidarity with others, and only optional sharing. In other words, an hour of beauty, prayer and togetherness that names loss but also hope.
So here’s what we’ve done at Grace the last few years: our service is called “Advent Vespers,” vespers being the old name for evening prayer. We gather in the Chapel, and once again we will be joined by cellist Hannah MacLeod, playing her soulful instrument in this intimate space. We will have a few short readings from the scriptures, hear a poem, and not hear a sermon. We will pray together, and sing some Advent hymns. We will have the opportunity to light candles on the altar, and to name someone on our hearts as we do so, if we choose. We will be together in prayerful silence. Then we’ll go our separate ways, knowing we are not alone.
I hope that if this speaks to where you are, you’ll join us Monday December 17th at 7 pm in the Chapel.
In Christ,