One of the things churches have begun doing during the season of Advent is what is called a Blue Christmas. This is a worship service or time of remembrance where people who are in grief over loss may find in worship a sacred time of shelter from the aggressive, mandatory, happy-happy of the secular world.
In one sense, this is a good and kind thing, helping those in grief do their grieving in the face of a culture bent on making everyone “turn that frown upside down” or else “go to your room” until we can be happy and cheerful.
There’s nothing quite like the Most Wonderful Time of the Year to dig up old hurts and rub salt into the wounds of the last and the least. In some ways, it’s very much like Valentines (I mean “Singles Awareness”) Day. A time for those who have to delight in their having while the have-nots are reminded of their lack.
And the things we lack come in many guises. Given the advertisers focus on Getmas, our lack certainly be stuff. After all, “what did you get for Christmas?” is the essential post Christmas question for kids everywhere. What we lack can be a person, a beloved one who has decided to sever the relationship, or one who is dead. What we lack can even be more deeply emotional. My dad did not have a good growing up and so each Christmas he tried so hard for This Time to be the Perfect Christmas that would pay for all the awfulness of the past. It never did however, because what human effort could be perfect?
This then is the season for the Happy Haves to go shouting along, demanding that everyone start having Fun! Fun! Fun! just like them. The sad, scared, tired, and worn need not apply.
But a whole lot of us are in fact sad, tired, worn, and grieving and so the church creates a one off worship service, a chance to recognize the grief that flows just under our surfaces. This is a good and appropriate thing. It is also to, just a little bit, miss the point of Advent.
That’s because the season of Advent is not in fact the Pre-Christmas Rush, the official season where we run about madly getting ready for the day (or multi-day) extravaganza of family and fun. Advent is ITSELF our Blue Christmas. It is the season of opening up our grief, our fear, and our lack to the only One who can give us true healing.
If we want to follow the secular model of “being so busy” this season, valiantly tap dancing on the avalanche of social expectations surrounding us while maintaining our “cool,” there are hundreds of applauding and even adoring fans who will laud our work. In the subtle field of Busier Than Thou, we may well carry off the palm. There are fields upon fields where our glory can shine. But… none of that will prepare our hearts.
Advent begins in our heart, not our day planner, or our home; not even our social relationships. Advent begins where, with the grace and strength of God, we bring our whole torn heart’s field out into the light. We delight in the parts that are strong, we grieve the parts that are broken, and we take the whole mess and put it into hands far more loving than our own.
We bring our best, we bring our worst, we bring our whole MEH-lange of mediocracy into God’s grace and seek healing. Some of the healing will take discipline and practice. Some of the healing will come as a miracle of grace. Some healing will come from simply realizing that God has already fixed that while we weren’t looking.
To reach this healing however, we need to look at ourselves closely. We need a whole season of the year to review, bring out into the open, lift up, and receive grace. And so we have a blue season four weeks long where to prepare our hearts so there’s enough room for the baby to be borne in us.
The color of the season is even blue to get this notion through to us. It’s reflective blue, thoughtful blue, sad and even hopeful blue. This is because the whole of Advent IS blue, a reflective, quiet, cleansing time for us to grieve, let go, and be ready for the gift of life.
That’s a Blue Christmas worthy of us all.