News

Community Notebook: 'Blue Christmas' service offers space to reflect

Wednesday event 'acknowledges the stress and pain' felt during the holidays

For one night during the typically celebratory holiday season, there will be no upbeat caroling, joyous choir music or other pageantry at University Lutheran Church -- only quiet prayers and time for reflection.

For the last six years or so, the Palo Alto church has set aside a single night during the season, called Blue Christmas, for those who don't necessarily find comfort in celebrating the holidays.

"This service is less celebratory and acknowledges the stress and pain sometimes associated with this time of year," the Rev. Greg Schaefer said.

The church is one of a growing number of congregations across the country holding Blue Christmas services to help those struggling with this time of the year. These services, sometimes called The Longest Night, are usually held on or near the winter solstice, a day with the least amount of daylight during the year.

Schaefer said grief, worry, anxiety, illness, loneliness, addiction, depression and family drama are among the obstacles that can make the Christmas season painful.

"If everyone else seems to be celebrating, we can feel even lonelier with our true feelings," he said.

The service is a time for people to pray or reflect about whatever is weighing on their minds and spirits, he added.

Schaefer said University Lutheran began holding Blue Christmas services a few years following his arrival at the church after he noticed that the holidays weren't necessarily a joyous event for everyone in his congregation.

"There was a need for a service that acknowledged the pain and grief that people experience at this time of year," he said. "Of course, we acknowledge it anyway, but to set aside a service just for that purpose -- one that opens up space for people to both bring their pain and receive some hope -- has been meaningful to the community."

Schaefer said he anticipates a large turn out at this year's service.

"It seems there is more to lament this year, and I think that's weighing on people's minds a lot," he said. "I think there are political, economic and environmental issues and instances of injustice and disaster – more this year than usual."

Wednesday's service will include passages that talk about grief, as well as God's promises of justice and peace and life, Schaefer said.

There also will be time for people to move around the church to various stations for a variety of activities such as folding origami stars and praying for light; sitting with a piece of art; writing, drawing or coloring; writing down a prayer and laying it in the nativity scene; lighting a candle; or praying with the pastor.

"From this darkest night, we will be moving toward the light," he said.

Anyone is welcome to attend Wednesday's service, which will begin at 7 p.m. at University Lutheran, 1611 Stanford Ave., Palo Alto.

University Lutheran is a Campus Ministry Congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

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Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Chuck Jagoda
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 20, 2017 at 1:53 pm

This is exactly the sort of outreach from the pulpit to the people that we need more of.

University Lutheran Church is an institution that welcomes people, helps people, serves people's needs for spiritual nourishment.

I am not an official parishioner but have been adopted by the generous people of the parish.

University Lutheran has been a home for many in need of a place to hold a memorial, for women in need of shelter in the coldest part of the winter, and as a place to come and pray like this Blue Christmas event which I for one intend to attend.

Thank you Pastor Greg and the kind people of University Lutheran Church


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Dec 20, 2017 at 4:51 pm

This is an excellent idea, and I appreciate that the Weekly wrote it up so more people would know about it. Plenty of us have a hard time with Christmas, for any of a number of reasons, and it's good to see this point of view recognized and a service designed around it.


Like this comment
Posted by food for thought
a resident of another community
on Dec 25, 2017 at 9:35 pm

Question? Why do we celebrate Jesus’ birthday on a Pagan holiday? That would be like trying to celebration your wife’s birthday on your ex girlfriend’s birthday every year and telling your wife it doesn’t really matter when we celebrate her birthday as long as we celebrate it once a year. After all, I do believe I heard Jesus was a jealous God? Didn’t he say “You shall have no other gods before me”? Also, what really happens around December the 21/22. Isn’t that the shortest day of the year? Isn’t that when the pagans celebrate the sun’s death and then 3 days later they celebrate the SUN’S REBIRTH. Don’t some cultures celebrate Mithras or Nimrod on that day? Why do we as a culture go to celebrate Christ on “SUN” day anyway? Some say we should be celebrating on Satur(n) day. I thought this was food for thought for the holidays, don’t you?

P.S. Most of our holidays are pagan as well. Halloween celebrates the dead and it has many horrifying traditions that killed and hurt people. Easter celebrates the fertility god with its eggs and rabbit symbols. Our government has a big 555 ft. phallic symbol in Washington, DC (It has been stated that it is 111 ft bellow ground and it is from another religion all together. That would mean it is 666 ft tall. Interesting number don’t you think?,) And the weirdest thing of all is the kill the messenger attitude for anyone who tries to point it out. Isn’t there a phrase “Seek ye the truth and the truth will set you free”? Where does that saying come from anyway? Also, why do we place a high amount of respect on the “Jews” in Israel? Jesus was not a religious “Jew”. I have been told “Jew” is not a race either. Heck, one person wrote a book exposing over 70% + of the people in Israel today have no historic connection to Israel anyway ( See Web Link ) . One of the biggest groups are called Khazars. They were pushed down into present day Israel and parts of Europe when the Russians defeated them in the 7th Century battles for their real homeland. Many of them converted to Judaism in the years following that defeat. Also, the language Jesus spoke came from the Indo-Aryan languages of which Hebrew is not one. The historians found that no trace of Hebrew was found in Aramaic until approximately 300 AD when the language called Syriac was found to be created. It was also pointed out that many different types of people lived in the holy land area at the time and before as well. There were many Persian holdovers from when the Persian Empire used to control that area. If Jesus was Persian, that would explain why both the Jews and the Romans didn’t care for him, wouldn’t it? It could also explain why he spoke Aramaic and not Hebrew, right? That would explain why they would rather kill him than a common jewish thief, right?


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