A youth stopped by the church to see me after school today and she was blue – not smurf blue, but down… depressed… bummed… blue. I asked what was going on and she said, “Christmas is four days away and it doesn’t feel like Christmas. It doesn’t feel like a happy and joyous time.”
You see, this youth’s grandfather passed away earlier this year and that loss hit her pretty hard. While she didn’t say it in so many words it seems to me that she doesn’t feel particularly joyous or cheery, but feels like she’s supposed to, and that makes it even worse. I imagine it’s a vicious cycle.
Think about the messages we’re getting from every angle this time of year… Television commercials show families, reunions, gift giving; they are full of joy and happy music and puppies and warm baked goodies. Radio and newspapers advertise sales on outlandish gifts and talk about joyous years past. Everywhere you go there are Christmas lights or Carolers or people hustling and bustling, seemingly full of Holiday Spirit. It is as if every aspect of the world around us tells us that we are to be happy and joyful.
And in the midst of the pressure to be happy and the seeming expectation that we be joyous, life happens – loved ones die, we are reminded of losses and failures during the year, we feel lonely or isolated or down. And when others around us seem to be perfectly happy, it can make us feel even worse.
This is why I appreciate a movement I’m learning more and more about called Blue Christmas. Churches are holding worship services acknowledging the intensified pain that people feel during this time of year, there are no festive decorations, there is no joyous music, there is just space for people who are feeling pain to gather together in the presence of God and a supportive community.
Kristen Gelineau wrote a good article about these Blue Christmas celebrations for the AP a couple of days ago that talks about their increasing popularity. After my conversation with this youth this afternoon it would seem to me that these will be increasingly important for people in coming years.