Blue Christmas Worship Service

December 2023

12-24-23 – 1oam


I will light candles this Christmas; Candles of joy despite all sadness, Candles of hope where despair keeps watch, Candles of courage for fears ever present,

Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days, Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens, Candles of love to inspire all my living, Candles that will burn all the year-long.

Howard Thurman




Call to Worship (Psalm 13:3-6) 

One: Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; lighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; lest my enemy say “I have prevailed over him”; lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

All: We come to you, O Lord, seeking answers to our questions. We come to you, O God, because you are the Creator.

One: But I have trusted your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

All: We come looking for a song to sing;
we wait for your voice to call us from beyond our fear.



Mediation on “Divinium Mysterium”

Michael McCabe


Lighting of the Advent Candles

Milt and Rose Fredericks


Advent Wreath Week 4 – B

December 24 – LOVE


Reader 1:         Watch and wait for Christ’s coming!


We light candles of hope, peace, joy, and love, remembering the promises of God with prayer.


Hear these words from the prophet Isaiah:


The Lord will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child. She shall bear a son, and name him Emmanuel: “God is with us.”


And hear these words from a loving mother: His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”


We light this candle in hope.

Light the first blue candle.


We light this candle in peace.

Light the second blue candle.


We light this candle in joy.

Light the pink candle.


We light this candle in love.

Light the third blue candle.


Reader 2:         Let us pray…


Loving Creator, today we gather in love as your beloved children. We yearn to welcome the Christ Child as our own, to embrace him as kin. Help us to see your love in one another as we wait upon your coming; light conquering darkness; love conquering fear. Let us walk in the light of the Lord. Amen.


Opening Prayer

God of mercy, hear our prayer in this Advent season for ourselves, and for our families and friends who live with the struggles of illness and the pain of loss. We ask for strength for today, courage for tomorrow, and peace for the past. We ask these things in the name of Christ, who shares our life in joy and sorrow, death and new birth, despair, and promise. Amen.

*Hymn No. 88

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”                vs. 1,2,5 & 6
1 O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.

2 O come, thou Wisdom from on high,
who orderest all things mightily:
to us the path of knowledge show;
and teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.

5 O come, thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heavenly home;
make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.

6 O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.


Words of Welcome


Psalter Psalm 22:1−5, 9−10

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night but find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.


Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
10 On you I was cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me you have been my God.






Scripture Reading Matthew 11:25−29

25 At that time Jesus said, “I thank[h] you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[i] 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

*Hymn No. 182

“I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say”

1 I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Come unto me and rest;
lay down, O weary one, lay down
your head upon my breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was,
so weary, worn, and sad;
I found him in a resting place,
and he has made me glad.

2 I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Behold, I freely give
the living water, thirsty one;
stoop down and drink and live.”
I came to Jesus, and I drank
of that life-giving stream;
my thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
and now I live in him.

3 I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“I am this dark world’s light;
look unto me, your morn shall rise,
and all your day be bright.”
I looked to Jesus, and I found
in him my star, my sun;
and in that light of life I’ll walk
till traveling days are done.



We gather here today because we are finding Christmas difficult this year. There are many possible reasons for that. Perhaps someone you love has died, or is far away. Perhaps a relationship is falling apart. Perhaps you are dealing with a serious illness. Perhaps you are under a lot of stress. Or perhaps it’s something else. Whatever it is, you know that life is sometimes hard. And you know that when life is hard at Christmastime, it can feel doubly hard.

Sure, Christmas is the happiest time of year for some people. And maybe it used to be the happiest time of year for you. But not this year. Sometimes all Christmas seems to do is remind us. Remind us that things aren’t the way they used to be. Remind us that this year won’t be like other years. It is so hard to let go of the past at Christmastime.

And that’s no surprise, because if you think about it, the way we celebrate Christmas in our culture is all about the past. All about trying to relive a past from a long time ago. Think about traditions. In so many families, Christmas involves certain foods, certain rituals, at certain people’s homes. Traditions intended to give us comfort in a world that keep changing. And think about the music. How many new Christmas songs make it into the rotation on the radio? Not many. Most are from fifty years ago or more.  Even the ever popular Mariah Carey “All I want for Christmas is You” was released in 1994 – that 29m years ago!

In a way, Christmas is all about the past. Which is okay, but it’s no wonder that when things change, when we suffer a loss in our lives, Christmas just makes it so much worse. And we just want the Christmas spirit back. The spirit we used to have. But we can’t get it back. The past doesn’t come back.

But here’s the secret about Christmas. The true meaning of Christmas is not in the past. It’s in the present. It’s right now. The true meaning of Christmas is a promise that God made to us, a promise God is fulfilling right now. The promise to always be with us. The promise that the people who lived in darkness would see light. Not a promise that things would be the way they used to be, but a promise that there would be new hope and new joy. The true meaning of Christmas is not about our own past, our own traditions. And the true meaning of Christmas is not even about what happened so long ago in Bethlehem.

Forget Bethlehem. Forget shepherds and angels and wise men and Mary and Joseph. Forget baby Jesus. That is a beautiful story, an important story, a good story. A story we will tell again in just a few days. But that story is about the past, and Christmas is about present. Here’s the secret: Christmas is not about the birth of Jesus. Not really. Not directly. Christmas is about God coming to us. Coming into our lives, here and now, coming into our hearts today. Certainly, the birth of Jesus is a sign of that. And if that story brings you comfort, then by all means, cherish that story. But the true meaning is bigger than that story. The deepest meaning is closer to us than that. The real meaning of Christmas is that Christ is born in us and among us today.

Gently healing us. Gathering us in his arm. Removing our burden. Giving us life. Forgiving us. Gently enabling us to forgive ourselves, to let go of our anger, our pain, our despair. Christ is born in us and among us today.

I know that’s hard to see. I know it’s not easy. And I know this healing isn’t quick. But Christ has time. Christ has patience. And slowly, slowly, he is working a miracle in you, the miracle that opens your heart to hope, to light, to life.

And so this year, I invite you to honor your pain. Honor it, for it is real. Don’t put it on a shelf, and say, it’s Christmastime, I have to be happy. Your suffering is real, and it’s alright to feel that way.

And I also invite you to trust that even amid that pain, Christ is being born in you today. Christ is being born in you, and he is with you, and he will gently bring you hope, and light, and life.

*Hymn No. 792                    “There Is a Balm in Gilead”

There is a balm in Gilead
to make the wounded whole;
there is a balm in Gilead
to heal the sin-sick soul.

1 Sometimes I feel discouraged,
and think my work’s in vain,
but then the Holy Spirit
revives my soul again. (Refrain)

2 Don’t ever feel discouraged,
for Jesus is your friend,
and if you lack for knowledge,
he’ll not refuse to lend. (Refrain)

3 If you cannot preach like Peter,
if you cannot pray like Paul,
you can tell the love of Jesus
and say, “He died for all.” (Refrain)


A Liturgy of Remembering

Leader: We light this candle to remember those persons who have been loved and lost. We pause to remember their name, their face, their voice. We give thanks for the memory that binds them to us this season that anticipates Christ.


(Pause while the first candle is lit)


People: May God’s eternal love surround them.



Leader: We light this second candle to redeem the pain and loss: the loss of relationships, the loss of jobs, and the loss of health. As we gather up the pain of the past, we offer it to you, O God, asking that into our welcome hearts and open hands you place the gift of peace.


(Pause while the second candle is lit)


People: Refresh, restore, renew us, O God, and lead us into your future.


Leader: We light this third candle to remember ourselves this Christmastime.
We pause and remember the past weeks, months, and, for some of us,
years of down times. We remember the poignancy of memories,
the grief, the sadness, the hurts, and the pain of reflecting on our own mortality.


(Pause while the third candle is lit)


People: Let us remember that dawn defeats darkness.


Leader: The fourth candle is lit to remember the children and adults lost in Newtown, Connecticut. We remember their names, their loved ones, their innocence.
We struggle to hold onto your promises, O God, in the face of such tragedy.


(Pause while the fourth candle is lit)


People: Let us remember that the darkness of evil cannot overcome your light of love and redemption.


Leader: This fifth candle is lit to remember our faith
and the gift of hope that the Christmas story offers us.
We remember that God, who shares our life,
promises us a place and time when suffering and pain will be no more.


(Pause while the fifth candle is lit)


People: Let us remember the One who shows the way, who brings the truth, and who bears the light.



Moment of Silent Reflection & Ribbons of Remembrance by Congregation






Pastoral Prayer & The Lord’s Prayer

Savior God,

The season of Advent has led us to prepare our lives and hearts for the birth of your son, but we question the readiness of ourselves and our world. We know well what the poet Madeleine L’Engle writes:


“This is no time for a child to be born with the earth betrayed by war and hate.”


Yet, you, O God, risk being born in a world such as this. You risk taking on flesh that is fragile, vulnerable, and new. Oh, wonder of wonders and joy of joys! Everlasting God, your promised presence is a stark reminder of hope.


As we find our way into pews and pulpit today, we come to give you honor and praise. We come grateful for all the good gifts with which we have been blessed. We come to pray for those who are especially in need of hope.


We pray for an end to the warring madness, for the people of Israel and Gaza, for the suffering in Ukraine, for the humanitarian crisis in the Con- go, and for an end to terrorism across the globe. We pray for innocents trapped under falling bombs. We pray for peaceful, diplomatic solutions to age-old conflicts. May your kingdom come, Savior of the nations, and your will be done.


Gracious God, bind us together in faith and service. Enlighten us to the needs and the needy in our communities. Organize us for action to solve systemic problems. Help us make room in our communities for weary travelers, people like Mary and Joseph, in need of a safe place to stay. You’ve given us abundant resources. Help us to share what we have, extend the table of fellowship, and make room for those who long to belong.


God of compassion, bless us and those we love. Heal those suffering from the illnesses of winter. Strengthen those undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, or other painful treatments. Comfort those who have recently lost loved ones, those mourning empty seats at holiday tables. Renew those needing respite, grant them the blessing of holiday sabbath.

As you reach out to us through Jesus Christ, help us reach out to those who suffer and struggle.


Mighty God whose Word we trust and whose Spirit enables us to pray, accept our requests and further those which will bring about your purpose for our world.


Finally, hear us as we pray together the prayer Christ taught us, “Our Father….”


Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.



Offering of Tithes & Offerings

With joy and gratitude for all we have been given, let us offer our tithes and gifts to God.




*Response No. 88               “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”             v.7

O come, Desire of nations, bind
all peoples in one heart and mind;
bid envy, strife, and discord cease;
fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.


*Prayer of Dedication

Gracious God, accept these gifts in grateful response for your generosity. May these gifts bring joy to those most in need of Christ’s mission and ministry. Amen.



*Hymn No. 122

“Silent Night, Holy Night”

  1. Silent night, holy night,
    all is calm, all is bright
    round yon virgin
    mother and child.
    Holy infant, so tender and mild,
    sleep in heavenly peace,
    sleep in heavenly peace.

    2. Silent night, holy night,
    shepherds quake at the sight;
    glories stream from heaven afar,
    heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
    Christ the Savior is born,
    Christ the Savior is born!

    3. Silent night, holy night,
    Son of God, love’s pure light;
    radiant beams from thy holy face
    with the dawn of redeeming grace,
    Jesus, Lord, at thy birth,
    Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

    4. Silent night, holy night,
    wondrous star, lend thy light;
    with the angels let us sing,
    Alleluia to our King;
    Christ the Savior is born,
    Christ the Savior is born!

*Closing Prayer

O God of all seasons and senses, grant us the sense of your timing
to submit gracefully and rejoice quietly in the turn of the seasons.
In this season of short days and long nights, of grey and white and cold,
teach us the lessons of endings; children growing, friends leaving, loved ones dying, grieving over, grudges over, blaming over, excuses over.

O God, grant us a sense of your timing.
In this season of short days and long nights, of grey and white and cold, teach us the lessons of beginnings; that such waitings and endings

may be the starting place,
a planting of seeds which bring to birth what is ready to be born— something right and just and different,
a new song, a deeper relationship, a fuller love—
in the fullness of your time.

O God, grant us the sense of your timing. Amen.


(A prayer from Guerrillas of Grace by Ted Loder)



Feelings of grief over losses can be heightened at this time of year. Expectations
for the holidays can be different from the realities. Such experiences need not be dealt with alone, please reach out to Phil or Milt for pastoral care, if needed.