Our Blue Advent Services:
Saturday, December 21 at 5:00 p.m.
and Sunday, December 22 at 8:00 and 10:30 a.m.
It has been an extremely trying year for many families at Grace. There were almost 30 funerals for members of Grace between the last two All Saints’ Days and four since All Saints. There were probably a lot more loved ones lost among families at Grace whose funerals were held elsewhere. And as always, there are several members of Grace whose struggles to remain healthy have increased during a time of year when our obligations to prepare for lots of holiday events increase as well. And with thanksgiving being about as late as it can be, the amount of time available to “get it all done” is about as small as it can be. Enough said!
Our Blue Advent Service
Maybe it was no coincidence that a member of Grace suggested we develop a “Blue Christmas” service this year. At its last meeting, the Board of Celebration did just that, using ideas from Sundays and Seasons, the online ELCA worship preparation service. We were mindful of two things when we designed our service: 1) a reluctance to plan yet another event to run in a time of year already overrun with events to run, and 2) a reluctance to have ordinary weekend services focus only on the loss of loved ones.
Prayers for the Laying on of Hands for Healing
We’ve been using this time of year for our regular healing services for everyone, and healing made sense to us for a “Blue Christmas” service, so healing is part of our “Blue Advent Service.” Sundays and Seasons also had several suggestions to involve everyone in the service, even if their seasonal struggles aren’t burdened by the deaths and dying of loved ones. Since our “Blue Advent Service” is for everyone and since we added to two things relatively new at Grace to the usual Prayers for the Laying on of Hands for Healing, we thought a brief description of this part of the service was in order.
What’s New in Our Blue Advent Service
After a short sermon and the hymn of the day, you will be invited to participate in one of three or all three of the following:
· Prayer and Laying on of Hands for Healing will be offered in the usual way.
· A Time to Offer Prayers. I once visited a homebound member who had written a list of people he prayed for at his church, so he could pray through that list every night and not miss anyone. I was on his list. And that was a good thing. So here’s time to make your list. And check it twice. Or spend some time writing prayers for people or situations only you know about. You may keep your list or walk your prayers up to God and leave them with him at the altar. They’ll be read only by God. There’s something profound about the simple act of walking up to the altar: it’s a statement that good things are going on in your heart, and mind, and soul.
· Light a Candle for a Loved One. We do light candles to remember loved ones on All Saints’ Day. This is a chance to do so for loved ones who have no connection to Grace at all and/or for loved ones you still miss. Lighted candles remind us of the candle lit at our baptisms when the Holy Spirit promised to accompany us forever.
· Children Are Welcome as Usual! If you are in town to worship the weekend of our Blue Advent Services, please explain these three faith practices to your children. One of them may appeal to them a lot more than you imagined. All of them are for all of you.
Advent is the Time of Year
to Prepare for the Birth of Christ.
But it’s not like anything we do during this time of year makes that happen. Which puts our busyness into perspective. Still, a lot of the things we do during this time of year are wonderful: memorable traditions shared with family members we don’t get to see too often. But the fact that some family members are missing can emphasize the depth of our losses. The good news is that Jesus is already with us, especially in the pain of our losses. Our Blue Advent services are one hour out of the 648 hours between Thanksgiving and Christmas on the darkest weekend of the year in which we can bathe a bit in the light and love of Jesus, so we’re strengthened by our faith in the communion of saints who enjoy peace in heaven, and so we’re reminded of our calling to care for those who enjoy no peace on earth at all.