Blue Christmas – Advent Lament Playlist and Guide

Welcome to this advent lament playlist. You can access the songs on Spotify or using the Youtube Videos below. For some, the Christmas season can be one filled with joy and cheer, but for others, Christmas can be a painful reminder that the world is still deeply broken, longing for Jesus to come again. Some Western Christian traditions approach this pain through holding a Blue Christmas (or Longest Night) service during Advent. It’s traditionally held on December 21st (which is the longest night of the year) to symbolize the struggle with darkness and grief faced by those living with loss. What loss we have experienced this year. We grieve with those who have lost jobs and relationships. We mourn with those who have seen dreams deferred and celebrations canceled. We are bowed by the weight of 300 thousand lives lost to Covid with families grappling on how to celebrate with an empty seat around the table. Lord,

“We are worn out from groaning. All night long we flood our beds with weeping and drench our couches with tears. Our eyes grow weak with sorrow…” – Psalm 6:6-7 (NIV paraphrased)

So we take time this Advent to approach God in our sorrow, knowing we have a Savior who says,

“Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matt 11:28 (NIV)

Below is a Blue Christmas service to walk through. It is a collection of prayers, songs, Scriptures, and reflections. The prayers are based off of an Advent Liturgy by Bonnie Kinschner. A way to add to the experience, is to pull out four candles (or Advent Candles if you have them) and have access to a journal or piece of paper. If you don’t have candles, don’t worry, you can just pray the liturgy. Before we begin our prayers, I want us to center ourselves with a song.

Song: Paris (Refuge) – All Sons and Daughters

The lyrics are:

“You are my refuge, You are my hope

Constant and safe, my home

You are my shelter, I will not fear

Even in darkness, You’re here.”

As we hear the bustling sounds of Paris; let the cars, horns, and people symbolize life as it passes us by this Christmas. Let it symbolize the clicking of a keyboard as we order online. Let it symbolize the car doors closing as we walk to a local store. Let it symbolize the smell of Christmas cookies, Hot Chocolate, and Candy Canes; the brightness of lights and the sound of Christmas carols. I acknowledge the struggle of stepping into a space with everything going on. Let me encourage you to close your eyes and perhaps posture yourself to sit or kneel as we create this sacred space in our living rooms or at the dining room table.

Take a moment to feel yourself breathing.

Take a moment to “Be Still and Know.”

Let this prayer wash over us.

“You are my refuge, You are my hope

Constant and safe, my home

You are my shelter, I will not fear

Even in darkness, You’re here.”

Abba you are here.

Song: Where Are You – Chandler Moore 

Candle Lighting or Prayer:

We light this first candle

In memory of those persons we have lost through death.

We remember them by name in our hearts or out loud. 

We give thanks for them and for their lives.

We treasure the memories in this difficult season.

Scripture: “Lord, listen to my prayer! Listen to my cry for help! You can’t hide your face from me in the day of my distress. Stoop down to hear my prayer and answer me quickly, Lord!” – Psalm 102:1-2 (The Passion Translation)

Reflection:

“Where are you now?” It’s a question I’ve asked of God at the darkest points in my life. Do you feel like you’re asking that question right now? As we light the first candle, we remember that this is the candle of hope, yet we acknowledge that, in the face of death and loss, hope can seem miles away. When we pray for healing or for answers, we’re told we have a God who always answers; yet at times that answer is silence. The song above ends as most Laments do; with an acknowledgement that God is with us even in this grief. This is our hope. That we have a Savior and Friend who holds us so close as we sit in our tears. It’s hope that allows us to ask our questions, “Why Lord? How Long? Where are you?” It’s hope knowing, in the day of our distress, Jesus is the only one who can do something about this grief. As you listen to this song, take the time and write out the questions you are asking of God. Be honest, Be vulnerable, Jesus can handle it.

Jesus, we ask these questions as we remember the loss this year, specifically those who have lost their lives. Those close to us and close to our neighbors around us. Cradle us in your arms Jesus, and in you would we find hope for our weary souls.”

Song: House on a Hill – Amanda Cook

Candle Lighting or Prayer:

We light this second candle

to ask for deliverance from the pain of loss.

All of the losses we face that bring sadness and darkness

to this time of year:

The loss of relationships, the loss of health, the loss of jobs, the loss of financial security

We ask that God bring us comfort.

We realize that the pain of loss can be heightened at this time of year

and we ask for peace and renewal.

Scripture: “As Jesus approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out – the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry.’” – Luke 7:12-13

Reflection:

“His heart went out to her.” This line stood out in my reading. This woman had lost everything: her husband, her son, her means of being provided for. In the loss, Jesus meets her, in fact his heart went out to her. As we light the second candle, the candle of love, we remember God’s love. A love that came down to this earth to live among us and experience what we experience; to the point of death. It’s a love that experienced loss, and so we can hold onto a love that can empathize with us in our own loss. I love the line of the song, “As you’re ready, I want to hear your heart. Is it heavy, where wounds have left a mark?”

Jesus’ love creates space for us to grieve

It’s not a love that asks us to shake off the pain and move on. It’s a love that moves to joy and comfort, yet not before hearing and holding the depth of our tears. Jesus invites us to bring our loss to him and grieve the things we thought could be and now aren’t. His heart goes out to you. Here I want to invite you, during this song, to take a new sheet of paper and write down some of the things you have lost this year (or areas in which you have experienced loss). It can even be the areas mentioned in the prayer above: Relationships, health, jobs, financial security.

“Jesus, we have experienced so much loss this year. We grieve a year where things are not how they should have been. We approach a God who, in love, creates space for us to sit still and grieve. We kneel before a Friend who, as we’re ready, hears our hearts and heals them.”

Song: O Come O Come Emmanuel – Maverick City Music 

Candle Lighting or Prayer:

We light this third candle for each of us. 

We offer up to God our pasts,

The times of regret and sorrow, the times of mourning, the difficult memories,

The times of grief and sadness, and of loneliness and pain.

We ask that God take away the shadows.

Scripture: “Weeping may stay for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” – Psalm 30:5 (NIV)

“O Israel, wait and watch for God. With God’s arrival comes love, with God’s arrival comes generous redemption. No doubt about it – He’ll redeem Israel, buy back Israel from captivity to sin.” – Psalm 130:7-8 (The Message)

Reflection:

Out of all the Christmas songs one can sing, I love the song O Come O Come Emmanuel. The song truly captures the waiting and anticipation of Advent. It reminds us of Israel’s plea as they waited through 400 years of silence for the Messiah, and it reminds us of our plea as we endure these dark days waiting for Jesus to come back and make all the wrong things right. As we light this third candle, the candle of Joy, we offer our sorrows, mourning, grief and loneliness, holding onto the hope; that God will, “Disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death’s dark shadows put to flight.” It’s a reminder that joy will come in the morning, and a humbling realization that the truest joy is usually born out of mourning. Use this time to do as the prayer suggests: to offer up the times of regret, sorrow, mourning, the difficult memories, the times of grief and sadness, of loneliness and pain.

“O Come O Come Emmanuel. We bring our whole selves to you, and with us the brokenness of the world that we have felt. Jesus, take away the shadows. Jesus, make the wrong things right. Jesus, in the midst of this silence and darkness we long for the light of the world to return. O Come Emmanuel.”

Song: Peace – Bethel Music, We the Kingdom.

Final Candle Lighting or Prayer:

We light this fourth candle as a symbol of hope and promise. 

We invite and celebrate the coming of the One

Who promises us no more suffering

the One who promises us light.

Scripture: “To shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” – Luke 1:79 (NIV)

Reflection:

As we conclude our time, we light the fourth candle, the candle of peace. We remember a God who can bring us peace now. It’s peace that gives us the space to breath, it’s a peace that cradles us when we’re broken, and it’s a peace that reminds us that we need not fear. We also remember a God who will one day come and bring eternal peace. We hold onto the promise that Jesus will return. That he will, “Wipe away every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.” As we endure the longest night of the year, the darkest of days, we remember that Jesus, the Light of the world, will never leave us. We end the same way we began.

Take a moment to feel yourself breathing.

Take a moment to “Be Still and Know that He is God alone.”

“Abba you are here.”

Benediction: It is Well with My Soul – Audrey Assad 

If you’re not familiar with the story behind this hymn, I would highly recommend reading the whole story. In short, the author, Horatio Spafford, knew what it was like to experience suffering and loss. He had lost possessions to a fire, his young son to a fever, and his four daughters to a tragic shipwreck. As Horatio went back to the place of the shipwreck, he was filled with comfort and wrote,

“When peace like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to know

It is well, it is well with my soul.”

This Christmas, I hope you know that Jesus is with you. If you don’t know this Jesus, please reach out to us at millcitychurch.com/connect and we’d love to walk with you on that journey. Jesus gives us hope in the midst of deep loss. In love, Jesus gives us space to grieve. Jesus brings joy in the midst of the darkest nights. Jesus brings peace when all around us is chaotic. Jesus is as much with us in the Blue Christmas as he is on the celebrations of the 25th. It is Jesus who gives us the strength to say, through it all…”It is well with my soul.”

Instrumental: Silent Night – Piano Guys