Last night, our church had our first-ever "Blue Christmas" service. Here's an article that explains the idea:
Although I'm not playing in the worship band right now, I am still on the worship committee at church, and back in October or November I brought up the idea, and when I found out that the pastor was up for doing the service, I signed on to do the music (guy & guitar style). Our church has connections to some of the homeless shelters in the Phoenix area, and Justa Center brought about a dozen people to the service (which meant we did a dinner for everybody after the service, since being at our church meant that they'd miss dinner at the homeless shelter), and a number of people from our church were there as well.
We did a lot of websearching for texts and ideas, and here's how our service went:
The pastor gave a short welcome, and then I started out with a song called "Merry Christmas," something that I actually wrote as a songfight song (songfight.org, a songwriting competition) in 2003. It starts out:
It's been a hell of a year,
I'm glad it's almost through;
Everywhere they're hanging the red white and green
And still all I see is blue.
Songs of the season promise
Comfort, hope and joy.
Santa check your bag, have you got
Any blessings for this boy?
...and though it does get a little more hopeful by the end, it was really meant to establish a mood, and I think it worked as intended. I'll probably never get another chance to sing it in church, though :-) (Then again, one of my better worship songs is one called "When This Building Is Taken Down..." and we haven't been able to use that since 2001...)
Spoken call to worship ("In the middle of the night, when stark night was darkest, then you chose to come..."), followed by some verses of "O Come O Come Emmanuel" (I managed to get it down to four verses instead of all seven that are in the hymnal), a congregational prayer, a scripture reading and a song called Psalm 121 from the old Vineyard books:
I lift my eyes up unto the mountain
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from You...
...and so on. Next we did a thing with lighting the Advent candles, but sorta redefining what each one means: "We light the first candle to remember those whom we have loved and lost. (Pause while the first candle is lit) We pause to remember their names, their faces, their voices, the memories that binds them to us in this season."
There was a congregational prayer time, with a "Lord, hear our prayer..." musical response three or four times during the prayers.
At the start of the service, we had given a blue Christmas tree ball ornament to everyone in the congregation, that they could hold during the service. At this point, then, we invited everyone to come up and hang their ornament on the tree, and explained that the ornaments would remain on the tree for our Christmas services, as a reminder to everyone that Christmas time has been tough for a lot of people, remember this in your prayers. I did some guitar noodling while this was going on, mostly various Christmas carols that I could play in D minor (the saddest of all keys). I really liked the symbolism with the tree, and I know when we were planning the service, I just felt like lighting candles was going to be too, umm, artificial.
Our closing song was "Still" -
I'll be still,
I will know that You are God,
I will trust in the power of Your name.
I will rest,
I will hide in Your shadow;
Nothing in this world can take Your place,
...and if you're not familiar with that song, you should go over to John Green / Recent Rainfall's page and listen to it.
There was a closing responsive piece:
One: God did not wait till the world was ready, till…nations were at peace.
All: God came when the Heavens were unsteady and prisoners cried out for release.
One: God did not wait for the perfect time.
All: God came when the need was deep and great. God dined with sinners in all their grime, turned water into wine.
...and so on - all the spoken bits of the service were borrowed from things we found online, you should be able to find the complete pieces via Yahoo. And at the end of that, we did one more verse of "Still."
As I mentioned, after the service, we had a dinner in the narthex, and I was really pleased that it wasn't all the Justa Center people at those two tabels, and all the church people at two other tables, people just mixed it up on their own.
I was also pleasantly surprised that many of the people from our church remembered Psalm 121 and Still, which we haven't used in worship for at least five years now... but there were people singing along as soon as the songs started.
Anyway... just thought I'd report on how our experiment with doing a Blue Christmas service went. Everybody's saying that 2009 is going to be a tough year for a lot of people, and this is something churches can do for people who have no interest in going to the happy services we tend to do on Christmas eve / Christmas day.