This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win an ebook or print version of my latest novella Who Can Find A Virtuous Woman? in the anthology Falling Hard.
Blue Christmas: Grief and the Holidays
Turn to someone and say, “‘Tis the season…” that person will smile back at you and probably say “To be jolly.” Then the two of you will laugh and sing “Fa la la la la la la la la.” The assumption is everyone is getting ready for the most wonderful time of the year. After all, to everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven. But what if your time and purpose are at odds with the majority of the people around you?
Loss at any time is painful, but experiencing loss when everyone else is smiling, laughing and giving good cheer can be doubly painful. A sense of isolation — or worse a sense of having no right to your feelings — can set in because everyone else seems oblivious to your pain. The pressure to stiff-upper-lip-it is great. Sometimes greater than people can bear. This is why as minister for pastoral care, I developed a Blue Christmas service for First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica NY (FPCJ) as a way to acknowledge, affirm and offer comfort to those for whom crying during this season is more natural than singing.
Often held on the longest day of the year, Blue Christmas services let people who are mourning know that they are not alone, that they are not forgotten, that they have a right to what they’re feeling. Hymns and songs sung are usually in a minor key. Prayers shared acknowledge sorrow and pain and affirm the reality of loss. Readings from authors like Ann Weems who write meditations based in their own experience of suffering are read. Old Testament scriptures point to people journeying from darkness to light. Psalms chosen are often ones of lament like Psalm 22 or looking for help like Psalm 121. New Testament readings focus on a hope that is always there, even when you can’t feel it. Candle lighting is coupled with litanies that reflect and affirm the reality of loss, that banish as much as possible feelings of shame or blame. In the service I designed for FPCJ attendees were invited to come forward and light candles as an act of agency that shows even when we feel most helpless we always have power. As a reverse offering, attendees were invited to take a scripture stone (glass stones with scriptures on them) from the offering plates to take home as reminders that the word of God is always available and present.
Here are two sample order of service so you can see what I mean: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/blue-christmas-a-service-of-reflection-for-the-longest-night, https://youngclergywomen.org/blue-christmas-service-when-christmas-hurts/. If you’ve never attended one, find acommunity near you that’s offering one then go. FPCJ’s Blue Christmas services were some of the most life affirming events I had the honor to participate in.
‘Tis the season for decking the halls and gift giving, but for some it is a dark night of the soul. If this is the case for you or someone you know, I hope this blogpost can serve as a reminder that there is comfort and strength for you in this time of loss, and that as the old Negro spiritual proclaims, “trouble don’t last always.”
Sentenced to hang for a crime she didn’t commit, former slave Mary Hamilton was exonerated at literally the last gasp. She returns to Safe Haven, broken and resigned to live alone. She’s never been courted, cuddled or spooned, and now no man could want her, not when sexual satisfaction comes only with the thought of asphyxiation. But then the handsome stranger who saved her shows up, stealing her breath from across the room and promising so much more.
Wealthy, freeborn-Black, Eban Thurman followed Mary to Safe Haven, believing the mysteriously exotic woman was foretold by the stars. He must marry her to reclaim his family farm. But first he must help her heal, and to do that means revealing his own predilection for edgier sex.
Hope ignites along with lust until the past threatens to keep them one breath away from love…
Michal Scott is the erotic romance pen name of Anna Taylor Sweringen, a retired United Church of Christ and Presbyterian Church USA minister. Inspired by the love mystics of Begijn, Audre Lorde and bell hooks, Rev. Anna writes erotica and erotic romance with a faith arc, hoping to build a bridge between the sacred and secular, spirituality and sexuality, erotica and Christ, you and a well-written, spiritually stimulating, and erotically arousing story. She uses story settings to give insight into the African American experience in the US.
Buy the book at Amazon.