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Some islanders face a 'blue Christmas'

Christmas is a time of peace and joy, full of the plentitude of the past year and hope for the future. Except when it’s not.

“Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year,” the Rev. Mary Boyd read from her sermon. But it’s not so wonderful for everyone, she continued.

The Rev. Boyd performed a special “Blue Christmas” service Friday at Coupeville United Methodist Church.

It’s a type of service that is growing in popularity around the country, but it was a first for the community.

The service was intended to provide comfort for all who have experienced loss in the past year, making Christmas a difficult time.

Whether from death, diagnosis or down-sizing, Christmas is not always merry, Boyd said.

Wilma Boyden and her husband Bob had not experienced any personal loss in the past year, but still found the service relevant.

“We’ve all lost people,” she said.

When it seems like everyone else is happy, the feelings of sadness can be accentuated for those who are grieving, yet they may remain silent for fear of ruining the joy for others. The silence only deepens their gloom and sense of isolation.

The Blue Christmas service was a place to gather where it was okay to not feel jolly.

The Rev. Boyd’s sermon reminded those in attendance that the first Christmas was not so great either, being the story of a pregnant refugee teenager giving birth in a dirty animal stall.

“But it is a wonderful time of year because you don’t have to be jolly,” Boyd said. “God will come to you.”

The sermon was a message of hope as the Rev. Boyd read words of comfort from the Bible, and then lit candles in a liturgy of remembering.

As she lit the candles she read:

We light this first candle to remember those whom we have loved and lost. We pause to remember their names, their faces, their voices, and memories that bind them to us.

The congregation rejoined: “May God’s eternal love surround them.”

We light this second candle to redeem the pain of loss: the loss of relationships, the loss of jobs, the loss of health. We pause to gather up the pain of the past and offer it to God, asking that from God’s hands we receive the gift of peace.

Congregation: “Refresh, restore, renew us, O God, and lead us into your future.”

We light this third candle to remember ourselves this Christmastime. We pause to remember these past weeks and months: the disbelief, the anger, the down times, the joy and sorrow of memories, the hugs and handshakes of family and friends who care for us. We give thanks for all the support we have known.

Congregation: “Let us remember that after every night comes the dawn of a new day.”

We light this fourth candle to remember our faith and the gift of hope that the Christmas story offers to us. We remember that God, who shares our life, promises us a place and time of no more pain and suffering.”

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

She then invited those in attendance to light candles in memory of their loved ones. After a moment’s hesitation, they slowly filed up to the altar, lighting candles for mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands and wives, all lost and remembered.

When they were done, 12 tiny flames flickered on the altar, reminders that they were not alone in their grief.

Bruce Bardwell attended the service in memory of his father who died this past year, but he also knows about grief on a professional level. He is a counselor at Island Mental Health in Coupeville.

He said the center is always busier with crisis services immediately after Christmas, following a brief lull.

In spite of the unhappiness he sees around the holidays, Bardwell remained hopeful.

“Christmas is a time of hope,” he said. “That’s the Christmas message.”

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