Last night we held a Blue Christmas service in Augusta. This was the first of its kind for this town and I wasn't sure what the response would be. The idea of this service is to acknowledge that Christmas can be a difficult time for some people. We are surrounded by the media telling us how we should be full of joy during this season, but that is not always easy. If this is the first Christmas since a loved one died, or it has been a difficult year emotionally, or there are broken relationships to deal with - Christmas can be a time of dread and sorrow.
During the service we read from Scripture, sang some of the more reflective carols and heard how Emmanuel - God with us - came into this world for the lost, the marginalised and the lonely. The members of the congregation were given an opportunity to light a candle for someone or a situation. They were also invited to take a blue bauble or a star from the church Christmas tree to hang on their own at home to acknowledge the pain or remember someone dear to them.
As the congregation gathered, I met people from the community for the first time. Our regular members had invited friends and family and some had seen the posters around town. It was very much the case that those who were meant to be there were. There were tears throughout the service, and that was okay. I encouraged people to allow the song of their heart to be sung. This was not a place for pretending or putting on a brave face. This was a safe place to be vulnerable and to be real.
As a leader, this was one of the most meaningful worship experiences with this congregation this year. New seeds have been planted and new doors have been opened. Last night was living proof that the Spirit does not only move in large packed auditoriums of loud music, but also in the intimate quiet of a few hurting souls that gather in a small country church.