Shiloh’s ‘Blue Christmas’ service reaches out to the grief-stricken

Shiloh Sixth Avenue church offered a special “Blue Christmas” service yesterday for people coping with loss and grief. Aside from a minor flood in our basement this season due to a burst pipe (eek!) and the occasional family tiff we have not yet been faced with adversity at Christmastime. We have been lucky. I imagine for those who do experience tragedy at this time of year, it must be especially hard because everyone around you seems so happy. Songs of joy and peace, and all that.

Writes the Burnaby Now :

For those struck by tragedy, the most wonderful time of the year can be a season of pain.

“Everything tells you that you’re supposed to be happy and excited and getting ready for Christmas, and there’s just this place inside of you that says, ‘I’m not there,'” says Shannon Tennant, minister at Shiloh-Sixth Avenue United Church in New Westminster.

Last Sunday, Tennant led the church’s annual Blue Christmas service, a time of peaceful reflection – and a refuge from the bright lights and shopping mall Santas.

I was particularly intrigued by the description of the service later in the article:

The Blue Christmas service at Shiloh-Sixth Avenue has much in common with ancient Winter Solstice celebrations, held on the shortest day of the year, Tennant says.

“In ancient times, people would actually gather in the morning to invoke the sun, because they weren’t absolutely sure it would come up without them.”

The service is also a reminder that the first Christmas came at a time of hardship and uncertainty for the Jews.

“At that time, the Jewish people were heavily taxed. They had Roman soldiers stomping around being annoying,” Tennant says.

“So (Jesus) was born partly to give people hope, to so show them that God is with them.”

This is exactly one of the reasons why I love Christmas. As the days grow darker and the nights get colder I find it weighs on me. When the lights go up on the houses and the Christmas tree comes inside, it’s a reminder that no matter how dark it gets, the light will return. It is a reminder to keep up hope when life is difficult, that good things are just around the corner. We are not a religious family, but I find this symbolism very meaningful.