The most recent issue of Presbyterians Today features a cover story reminding us of the link between the holiday season and depression. All around, we are constantly bombarded with tidings of joy. At the same time, we can feel burnt out by the pressure of stretched budgets, the anxiety of family gatherings, or the pain of the loss of a loved. Their is a couple of Christian traditions that might offer some solace during this season that serve as a kind if safety net under the surface of the holiday hustle and bustle. The remembrance of those who have finished their race and kept the faith at the beginning of November with All Saints Day can be paired with the remembrance service featured in many churches on the longest night of the year, sometimes called a Blue Christmas service.
All Saint’s Day is grounded in the idea of the communion of saints. The communion of saints is one of the beliefs that we affirm in the Apostle’s Creed. The idea develops out of the recognition that God has been reaching out to humanity from creation and we humans are able to experience and know God’s love. The communion of saints in its broadest sense invites us to be a part of the family of those who seek to respond to God’s love in the past, present and future; on earth as in heaven; now and forever. In a very real sense every time we gather around the communion table, we are celebrating All Saint’s Day. Re-membering Christ’s body, those physically present in the pews and those saints who form the great cloud of witnesses feasting with us in the fullness of God’s presence. As theologian Elizabeth Johnson reminds us, those in God’s family who die “fall into the hands of the living God” to be “quickened by the loving-kindness which is forever faithful.” The love of God in Christ Jesus creates an extended “community of grace” those who have died, those living in hope, and those yet to be born: “all seekers of the divine, in a circle around the eucharistic table, the body of Christ which encompasses the earth itself.”
This year we have lost some great saints of this church and of Christ’s body on earth. We can be thankful for their witness and their continued presence with us in the communion of saints. Even as we celebrate their life, as we move toward the days immediately before Christmas a Blue Christmas service offers us an opportunity to come together in our grief and give space to the remembrance of those we have lost. Fairfield’s Blue Christmas service is on Friday, December 21st which is the Winter solstice, the longest night of the year. We gather on the longest night for this candlelight service to remember that no matter how much the night presses in on us the light of Christ still shines in the midst of the darkness. The Presbyterians Today article quotes a woman who attended a Blue Christmas service after the loss of her mother. “I really appreciated the service,” she said. “It was simple, and the feeling of being in the sanctuary was like being enveloped in the Spirit amid the dark.” This Christmas season we hope everyone can find both comfort and joy. Our prayer is that for those of us who are mourning the loss of loved ones this season that we will find solace in the strand of hope and light that stretches between these two somewhat forgotten touchstones of our Christian life together.