’Tis the season to be merry, right?
Well, not for everyone.
The Land O’ Lakes United Methodist Church wants to acknowledge that the holidays can be a painful, difficult time for people who have suffered losses and to provide a source of support, said Kevin Grills, the church pastor.
It is offering a Blue Christmas Service on Dec. 7 at 7 p.m., at the church, 6209 Land O’ Lakes Blvd.
“We just want to create a space for people to feel what they feel in the Christmas season,” the pastor said, noting sometimes that isn’t the joy that others are experiencing.
“I have heard of many people who are depressed and are going through a really hard time and are looking for reasons to be hopeful,” Grills said.
“Many have had a hard year. Some have had many hard years consecutively. With the pandemic, death of loved ones, the loss of jobs, financial stresses, inflation — there’s many reasons and many different kinds of losses.
“So, if anyone has lost somebody significant to them in the holidays, it tends to be a season that used to be a season of joy for them, now becomes exactly the opposite for them.
“Because they’re now reminded of the empty chair. They’re reminded of what they don’t have any more, and life just gets really hard and difficult, and overwhelming — when everybody is in celebration mode and you are in the season of mourning, or you’re just kind of down,” he said.
The church’s Blue Christmas Service is open to anyone who would like to attend.
The idea is to create a space that acknowledges the loss people are feeling and to convey a sense of community — “to let people know that they are not alone in their heartache and in their struggles,” Grills said.
“I’ve had some people say, ‘Why would we do that? It’s a joyous season. Why would we provide that? Shouldn’t they just suck it up?’
“I said, ‘Well, that’s just not the reality of it. You might feel that it’s odd to dwell on the darkness, or on the struggle, but it’s important to do so.
“All of us find ourselves in the darkness at some point,” he said.
“We dwell there in this (in the service) because that’s what some people are feeling, and we’re reminded from a Biblical sense and from a Christian sense that God doesn’t just tell us to ‘Chin up.’ And, He walks with us, not just through the light, but through the darkness, and He brings us into the light.
“So, our service, itself, it will be a liturgical service. We will be singing some hymns, some of the more somber, low-key, minor-chorded hymns. We’ll light some candles. We’ll have an opportunity to name our losses,” he said.
Those who wish to write down the name of someone they’ve lost, or something difficult they’re going through, will have the chance to write it down on an ornament, to hang on a bare Christmas tree.
It can be any kind of loss — such as a layoff from work, or the death of a spouse — even it happened many years ago, Grills said.
There will be an opportunity to light candles, and there will be time for reflection.
Those attending the service will be free to participate as much, or as little, as they’d like, the pastor added.
“We will have our sanctuary already adorned, but we will have everything off, muting things for the service.
“The general tone of the service, itself, is intentionally solemn. But it does point to hope, peace and love and joy that’s offered in the advent of Jesus.”
The idea is to provide a hopeful message, without ignoring the pain and the struggle people are experiencing.
Loss, the pastor said, “is not a linear thing. It’s messy.”
Grills wants the service to be welcoming, helping community members to support one another.
He also has a wish of his own: “The best case scenario, is that people who come in without any hope, leave with hope.”
Land O’ Lakes church offers community events
Land O’ Lakes United Methodist Church, at 6209 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., has three upcoming holiday community events. (It also has Christmas services).
Dec. 3, 4 p.m.: The Silence and the Sound, a traditional choir providing Christmas music. No charge.
Dec. 7, 7 p.m.: Blue Christmas Service, offered to help those hurting at the holidays.
Dec. 18, 6 p.m. Second annual Campfire and Carols, check out the bonfire, sing-along to Christmas carols and enjoy some s’mores, plus crafts for kids. Bring your lawn chairs.
Published November 30, 2022